Overview of policies, strategies and programmes in relation to the occupational health and safety of older workers - Latvia

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Initiatives from government/government-affiliated organisations

Occupational health and safety policies

National Health and Safety at Work Strategy (2008-2013)

The Latvian Ministry of Welfare has developed, since 2008, various strategic and policy documents in the context of the National Health and Safety at Work Strategy. In April 2008, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the Strategy for the development of the labour protection field 2008-2013[1], based on some of the requirements of the EU strategy 2007-2012[2]. The main objective of the strategy was a safe and healthy work environment that would promote job retention, the improvement of economic conditions and an increase of the level of welfare. More precisely, the four core objectives of this Strategy were to:

  • Improve the planning of labour protection policy by involving the National Institute if Work Environment,
  • Enhance the state monitoring and control mechanism,
  • Establish a preventive culture for OSH mainly through awareness raising,
  • Certify that economic incentives offered to employers by the state contribute to the improvement of the work environment and working conditions[3].

One specific feature of the strategy was describing the situation and setting general objectives for the period of 2008-2013. The Cabinet of Ministers also adopted two supportive documents that aimed to provide more details on the basis of the Strategy; a more detailed programme for the 2008-2010 period, and a detailed plan for the 2011-2013 period. Neither the Programme for development of labour protection field 2008-2010[4], nor the Programme for development of labour protection field 2011-2013 explicitly mentioned ‘older workers’. MSDs were recognised occupational diseases and psychosocial risks as an emerging and increasingly important risk.

The Programmes incorporated early intervention and the enhancement of a preventive culture, including workplace health promotion, but did not directly refer to age management, nor address rehabilitation. Work ability was mentioned in the context of explaining the penalty system in Latvia regarding violations of occupational health and safety regulations; ensuring the ability to work was a general and overarching objective of the strategy and OSH policy. One of the aims of the facilitation of the ‘preventive culture’, as written in the 2011-2013 plan[5], was to enable a longer working life. In the 2011-2013 plan, new emphasis was given to the ability to work as an overarching objective, in the context of extending working life.

Institute of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health

The Institute of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health at the Riga Stradiņš University does not have a dedicated strategy/work programme. The website of the Institute outlines the main functions and aims of the institute. The main objectives of the institute are to: study and improve the working environment; early diagnosis of occupational diseases; rehabilitation and return return-to to-work of the affected individuals; improvements in health conditions, ability to work, and quality of life of the working population[6].There is no concrete explanation on how these objectives will be achieved in practice. The institute plans to achieve these objectives through: research; education of students, workers and employers; awareness raising campaigns; participation in EU-funded relevant projects; participation in relevant government-funded projects; keeping and updating a database on occupational diseases and health and safety risks. The Institute is the National Contact Office for the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion.

Since 2006, the Institute is carrying out surveys on ‘Working conditions and risks in Latvia’, with co-financing from the ESF. The surveys have been conducted in 2006, 2010 and 2013 and involved each time about 2500 interviews of workers. The 2012-2013 survey[7] concluded that, while the situation in the field of labour protection improved between 2006 and 2010, a number of key indicators of labour protection (such as the number of fatal occupational accidents or the rate of risk assessment in companies in dangerous sectors) have been stagnating or have even regressed since 2010. Although age aspects are not specifically analysed, data is available by age. For instance, the survey shows that 52% of 55-64 year olds have long-term health effects (> 6 months) that influence their everyday life; out of these, 55% report that these effects are consequences of working conditions.

Public health policies

Other related strategic documents include the Public Health Strategy and its Action Plan for 2004-2010[8], and the subsequent Public Health Strategy for 2011-2017[9], a comprehensive policy document that was prepared by the Ministry of Health and adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers in October 2011. The enhancement of healthy work conditions throughout a person’s working life is promoted through the ‘preventive culture’ approach. Both documents introduce OSH in sections on problem definition as a health determinant; and then refer and divert to the OSH-specific documents discussed above.

Employment policies

Active labour market policies

In the 2007-2013 period, ‘Equal opportunity regardless of age’ has been included as a horizontal priority for the use of EU structural funds. The objective of this priority has been to increase the participation of older workers in the labour market. In all stages of implementation of EU structural funds there is a criterion for benchmarking the labour market participation of older people. According to the Eurofound 2013 report on the ‘Role of governments and social partners in keeping older workers in the labour market’, the success of this instrument has been impaired by the fact that older workers form only a minor share (6%) of all project beneficiaries in the use of structural funds. Information was not available on whether or not and how OSH for older workers is considered, and to date no formal evaluation of the initiative has been carried out.

Latvia tries to facilitate the inclusion of older workers into the job market by providing direct wage subsidies for employers recruiting older workers. For example, with co-financing from the European Social Funds (ESF), the Latvian Government directly supports the wages of previously unemployed individuals in Latvian enterprises for a period of up to 12 months (in the range of 100-200% of the statutory minimum wage). Older workers were one of the eight main target groups; and more than one-third of the beneficiaries of this support were people over the age of 50. Longer and better working lives

In 2014-2016, the Ministry of Welfare will carry out the project “Latvia: Developing a Comprehensive Active Ageing Strategy for Longer and Better Working Lives”, which aims to develop an evidence-based and comprehensive active ageing strategy in Latvia that would facilitate longer and better working lives taking into account the considerable demographic challenges that the country is currently facing. Among others, the project will aim to identify the main obstacles, incentives and disincentives for the 50+ population to stay in the labour market and identify good practices and policy measures needed to support better health outcomes for the 50+ working population<ref<Ministry of Welfare (in English): http://www.lm.gov.lv/text/2739 (Accessed May 2015)</ref>.

Career management and vocational training

The Ministry of Welfare, together with the Latvian State Employment Agency, fund temporary public employment services for unemployed people. The initiative ‘Measures for specified groups’ is co-financed by the ESF. In 2003, persons over the age of 50 were included as a specific group to facilitate the return to work of older workers. In 2008, an in-work training component was introduced. Persons over the age of 50 have to meet specific criteria to be eligible for the programme. Between 2008 and 2012 overall 1033 persons started the programme, 741 completed the programme and 590 were able to retain the placement on a permanent basis[10]. In the first half of 2012, 47% of the beneficiaries of the public works scheme were older workers. The initiative lasted until the end of June 2014. No information was found on how OHS for older workers is considered in the initiative.

Apart from the vocational training programmes mentioned above, the Ministry of Welfare initiated measures to support the career development of older workers. The State Employment Agency provides careers consultations to job-seekers or workers under high risks of unemployment, to assist them in assessing their needs in terms of career development and training. In 2012, 21% of participants to this programme were workers over 50[11].

Cross-generation programmes

Latvia does not currently have a formal programme promoting the transfer of experience between generations. However, the National action plan of the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations promotes communication and cooperation between generations. The plan included notably education measures to encourage the exchange of experience and the transfer of skills between younger and older workers, such as intergeneration events, or voluntary work. Measures developed under the National action plan of the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing addressed the global issue of stereotypes and discrimination towards older workers, which is a major cause for early exit of the labour market in Latvia. For instance, the Ministry of Welfare created an award for ‘senior-friendly companies’[12].

Latvia is also part of the project ‘Best Agers’, partly financed by the European Union Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013, in which cross-generation working groups were established to promote transfer of experience.

Initiatives from social partners

The Employers’ Confederation of Latvia (LDDK) and the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS) have implemented projects aiming at improving working conditions and reducing occupational risks. None of these projects however are targeting specifically older workers. The ESF-funded project Practical Application for Labour Relations and Health and Safety Regulation in Enterprises and Branches[13], managed by LDDK provided assistance and tools for companies to support risk assessment.. At the end of 2013, the LDDK, in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Environmental Health Institute, launched a survey on occupational risks and working conditions in Latvia (see more details about the survey in section above).

LDDK and LBAS, under the above project, have established OSH consultation centres in five regions of Latvia. The project ran throughout 2013[14].

Initiatives from other organisations/projects

CONNECT Latvia is an organisation that links entrepreneurs to establish innovative companies in Latvia. CONNECT Latvia is a partner in the ‘Best Agers project’ financed by the Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013. CONNECT Latvia is in the process of developing a ‘senior experts’ network, in the form of a web-based tool, where the knowledge and experience of older workers and experts is harnessed to help younger entrepreneurs to move forward their commercial activity. The rationale of the initiative is to help older experts to actively engage and participate in economic activities in advisory roles. The initiative took place between 2012 and September 2013[15]

References

  1. Strategy for the development of the labour protection field 2008-2013, adopted on 17.04.2008. by Cabinet of Ministers, available in English at: http://www.lm.gov.lv/upload/legislation/leg_health_1.pdf (Accessed October 2014)
  2. Depending on the translation, the Strategy is commonly also referred to as ‘Common Guidelines for Facilitation of Safety at Work 2008-2013’- both refer to the same policy document. The 2008-2013 strategy is preceded by a strategic document covering the 2001-2006 period
  3. EU-OSHA, OSH WIKI, “OSH system at national level – Latvia”, as above
  4. Programme for development of labour protection field 2008-2010, adopted by Cabinet of Ministers, available in Latvian at: http://www.lm.gov.lv/upload/darba_tirgus/darba_aizsardziba/lmprog_pienemta.doc (Accessed October 2014)
  5. Work protection development plan 2011-2013., p. 8
  6. The website of the institute: http://www.rsu.lv/petnieciba/petniecibas-organizesana/struktura/instituti-un-laboratorijas/darba-drosibas-un-vides-veselibas-instituts/par-institutu (Accessed October 2014)
  7. SIA “TNS Latvia” & RSU DDVVI, Work conditions and risks in Latvia, 2012–2013, Riga, 2013. Available at: http://osha.lv/lv/research/work-conditions-and-risks-in-latvia-2012-2013.pdf/ (Accessed May 2015)
  8. Available in Latvian at: http://polsis.mk.gov.lv/view.do?id=1193 (Accessed October 2014)
  9. Available in Latvian at: http://www.vm.gov.lv/lv/aktualitates/sabiedribas_veselibas_pamatnostadnes_20112017/ (Accessed October 2014)
  10. Karnite, R., Latvia: The role of governments and social partners in keeping older workers in the labour market, Eurofound 2013, pp. 25-26
  11. Karnite, R., Latvia: The role of governments and social partners in keeping older workers in the labour market, as above.
  12. Pasākums "Senioram draudzīgs uzņēmums": http://www.senioriem.lv/raksti/2012/10/23/pasakums-senioriem-draudzigs-uznemums/ (Accessed October 2014)
  13. Further information available at: http://www.lddk.lv/projekts/darba-attiecibu-un-darba-drosibas-normativo-aktu-praktiska-piemerosana-nozares-un-uznemumos/ (Accessed October 2014)
  14. Cardiff University, The NERCLIS Project: Volume 2 – Annex I, p. 225
  15. ‘Best Agers’ website: http://www.best-agers-project.eu/BestAgers/tabid/922/Default.aspx (Accessed October 2014); CONNECT Latvia web-site: http://www.connectlatvia.lv/pub/ (Accessed October 2014); contact person ElmārsBaltiņš +371 670 891 78