A Swedbank study found that 44% of Latvia’s residents consider themselves to be part of the middle class, although less than 10% actually fulfil the self-defined criteria, according to Latvian Radio on February 11.
This is the bank’s second annual study, and for the second time society feels better about their economic well-being than data shows. Despite economic development, the middle class still sits at 9%, according to criteria the respondents used to define the middle class.
“They’re the part of society that provides a nation with economic stability. They’re the residents that aren’t just surviving, but are thriving,” said Head of the Swedbank Institute of Finances Reinis Jansons.
He continued that the middle class spends more on culture and art, and is more demanding of municipalities and politicians, because they feel they can afford to be. However the sense of optimism could be considered somewhat curious in Latvia. 2019 Eurostat figures show that “people in Latvia (28%) reported being happy rarely or never over the last four weeks. The frequency of being happy is the lowest in Latvia (where 31% of people reported being happy all or most of the time).”
So how does this less-than-happy country with the second lowest minimum wage in the European Union (and lowest purchasing power), where almost a quarter of the population was at risk of poverty in 2018 remain so optimistic? The answer could possibly be found in the subjectivity of the word “normal”. In 2019 a survey carried out by SKDS discovered that people feel they need an average of €1,466 a month to lead a normal life, though Latvian Radio found that some pensioners would even be satisfied with €500 a month.