Monday, November 18, 2019

Knowledge of visa-free requirements falls since launch of scheme

Georgian citizens have been able to travel visa free within the Schengen zone for approaching three years, the result of several years of complex dialogue and policy reform. Despite the elapsed time, and a major EU-funded public information campaign, the results of the 2019 Survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia (EU Survey) suggest that public knowledge of requirements for visa free travel have fallen since the scheme launched. Similarly, the same period has seen a large rise in the number of Georgian citizens being denied entry to EU countries, with Eurostat reporting over four thousand such cases in 2018 alone, up over a third since 2017.

For a Georgian citizen to enter the Schengen zone under the visa-free regime, the following documents are required:

  • A biometric passport;
  • Proof of financial means to cover expenses;
  • A return ticket;
  • Proof of address during stay (for example a hotel reservation).
Additionally, stays may not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period, and visitors under the visa free regime are not allowed to work.

In both the 2017 and 2019 waves of the EU survey, respondents were asked about their knowledge of requirements for documentation, length of stay, and right to work. The data suggest a marked decline in areas of knowledge asked about aside from the requirement for a biometric passport and the duration of stay. Falls were seen in awareness of the need for proof of address during the stay, proof of financial means to cover expenses, and a return ticket. In addition, there was a steep decline in knowledge of whether or not one can work during a stay.






To better understand who is more and less aware of the above requirements, a simple additive index describing an individual’s overall understanding of the EU requirements outlined above was developed. Correct responses to the above questions are counted as one point, resulting in knowledge scale from 0-6, with a score of zero representing no correct responses and six representing fully correct responses. Overall, across both waves, less than one percent of respondents answered all six questions correctly, with 13% answering none correctly. The average score on the index decreased from 2.6 in 2017 to 2.2 in 2019.

Scores on the index in 2019 are associated with the sex, age, ethnicity, employment status, education level, and internet use. After accounting for other factors, there is no significant differences in awareness between people living in Tbilisi, other urban areas, and rural areas. Younger people, men, people with tertiary education or higher, ethnic Georgians, the employed, and regular internet users are more likely to have better knowledge of the requirements for visa free travel on average, all else equal. By far the largest observed difference was for ethnic minorities, who are predicted to score one point lower on the knowledge index than ethnic Georgians.







This pattern is reflected in minorities reporting lower levels of awareness across all questions asked, except travel insurance. For example, 56% of ethnic minority respondents knew about the need for a biometric passport compared to 81% of Georgians survey – a 35 percentage point difference. Similarly large differences between Georgian and minority respondents were observed in correct responses relating to the right to work and financial requirements for entry, with minority respondents as a group respectively scoring 17 and 14 percentage points lower than their ethnic Georgian counterparts.






Although ethnic minorities are consistently less aware of visa free regulations, the overall decline in awareness appears to be driven by a fall among ethnic Georgian respondents. Between 2017 and 2019, there is a rise along some dimensions of knowledge of the requirements reported by ethnic minority groups. However correct responses from ethnic Georgian respondents have fallen in three of the six domains asked about.







While knowledge is lower among ethnic minorities, their knowledge has increased between waves of the survey along some dimensions. In contrast, awareness of the rules of visa free travel have been on the decline among the ethnic Georgian population.

With the available data, it is not possible to identify the source of the higher baseline (2017) scores for ethnic Georgian respondents vis-à-vis ethnic minorities, nor the driving factors behind their divergent changes over the past two years. This noted, this pattern would be consistent with the hypothesis that previous information campaigns may have been more effective in reaching ethnic Georgians than minority groups, and that public awareness has slipped as this issue has fallen from national headlines.

Substantial numbers of Georgian citizens have been denied entry to the EU since the introduction of visa-free travel, a process which generates significant financial costs and personal distress for the individuals concerned. In this context, it is concerning that the Georgian public’s knowledge of requirements for visa-free travel to Schengen zone countries has fallen since 2017 – suggesting a need for renewed messaging around the details of the scheme.

Furthermore, whilst there are some differences between knowledge across many demographic categories, ethnic minority groups display substantially lower knowledge than any other group. As such, for any renewed information campaign to be effective, it should take concrete steps to ensure the inclusion of ethnic minority groups.

Note: The data presented in the above blog post is available here. Replication code for the regression analysis is available here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Government employees assess the work of the government better than the general public

The outlook in Georgia continues to be increasingly pessimistic, with more people reporting that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Similarly, performance assessments of government institutions have been on the decline in recent years. As recent CRRC analyses have highlighted, party identification, attitudes towards individual politicians, ethnicity, and Georgian language proficiency among ethnic minorities are associated with attitudes towards government. Analysis of the July 2019 CRRC and NDI survey suggests that working for the state is also associated with performance assessments. However, government employees in poor households and those in Tbilisi rate government performance significantly worse.

On the survey, 32% of respondents reported the government was performing well. In contrast, 60% said it was performing poorly. The remaining respondents stated either that they don’t know or refused to answer how they thought the government was doing.  On the survey about one in ten (12%) respondents said they work for a public agency or government, which is equivalent to one third of the respondents on the survey that reported having a job (33%). While 30% of people who do not work for government responded to the survey question saying the government was working well, 44% of state employees reported it was working well. Aside from state employees, people with tertiary education were more positive about government performance than people without, and people in the capital were less positive than in other settlements.





The significantly higher performance assessment among government employees remains after controlling for age, settlement type, wealth, sex, employment status, and education level. After adjusting for the previously noted characteristics, state employees are 14 percentage points more likely to report the government’s performance is positive compared to those without a job and 13 percentage points more likely than those with a job outside government. Similarly, the differences with education and settlement type remained after controlling for other factors. Other variables included in the analysis did not show significant associations with assessments of state performance.

However, digging deeper into the data to look at differences among different groups of government employees suggests that some government employees are more approving than others. Government employees that are in wealthier households (and presumably also earning larger amounts of money), are significantly more likely to have a positive attitude towards state performance: there is an 8% chance that the poorest government employees think government performance is positive compared with a 68% chance among the best off government employees. By comparison, performance assessments do not vary with wealth for those outside state employment.






Attitudes among government employees also vary based on what type of settlement they live in. In Tbilisi, government employees are most critical of the government, while in other urban and rural areas, they are significantly more likely to report they are positive about government performance. By comparison, the differences are much smaller between settlement types for individuals that are not employed or work outside of government.





While on average, people working for the government are more likely to think performance is better, government employees in Tbilisi and living in poor households are significantly less positive about government performance compared with both other government employees and the general public.

Note: The above analysis is based on two logistic regression analyses. The first contains sex (male, female), state employment (state employee, employed elsewhere, not working), wealth (number of assets owned), education level (secondary or less, vocational, or tertiary), age, and settlement type as independent variables. The dependent variable was positive (Very well, well) versus negative (Poorly, Very poorly) responses to the question, “Please tell me, how would you rate the performance of the current government?” The second analysis included the interaction of employment status with wealth as well as with settlement type. The data used in the above analysis is available here. The replication code for the above analysis is available here.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Drugs for desert? Biggest monthly household expenses in Georgia

The economy remains the main concern for people in Georgia. Together with the consumer price index and USD-GEL exchange rate rising, average household expenditures also have increased over the last couple of years. Meanwhile, according to recent data only 10% of the population has any savings. Although household expenditures have increased, what are people spending money on? The most recent CRRC-NDI survey from summer 2019 asked questions about household expenditures which provide a sense about what people spend money on in Georgia as well as who spends more on different categories of goods and services.

Most of the families in Georgia spend everything they earn. When asked about the largest monthly household expenses, everyday necessities came out on top, while leisure related expenditures were named by only a few. Food and utilities were named twice as frequently as any other expense. While this might not be a surprise, it is noteworthy that expenses on medicine came third, with more than one in three naming it as one of their largest monthly household expenses. Interestingly enough, some people, though a negligible number, still name travel, exercise, and entertainment related expenditures as the largest.






Note: Respondents were allowed to name up to three categories.

To understand how household expenditures vary between different demographic groups regression models were constructed. They included sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55 and +), settlement type (capital, large urban, small urban, rural), ethnic enclave status (primarily Georgian settlements, primarily minority settlements) and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth.

When looking at the most common household expenses, food and utilities are on top regardless of people’s gender, age, the type of settlement they live in, or their economic situation. Nevertheless, the regression model showed that several demographic variables are useful in predicting who is more likely to have certain kinds of expenditures. For example, people who live in the capital  are less likely to name loans/installments/mortgages as their largest monthly expenditure compared to people in small urban and rural areas. People over 55 and people with lower economic standing are much less likely to name this expenditure as well, compared to people who are younger and people with higher economic standing. Also, minority settlements are less likely to name loans compared to Georgian settlements.






Similarly, there are some small differences in terms of education costs as well. People who are over 55 and men are slightly less likely to name education related expenditures compared to younger people and women. In households with higher economic standing, education related expenses are more likely to be mentioned among the largest monthly household expenditures.

One of the most interesting issues to look at is spending on medicine. It is third highest on the list, which is telling: a third of the population is spending as much or more medicine as food. There are also some interesting differences between various groups associated with medicine related expenses. People living in small urban and rural areas are more likely to name medicine among their top expenditures than those who live in the capital. Also, minority settlements are slightly less likely to mention medicine in their expenditures, than people from Georgian settlements. Similarly, younger people are one third as likely to name medicine, compared to people who are 56 or older. An additive index of ownership of household items shows that Georgians who own fewer things are more likely to say medicine is one of the top monthly expenditures in their household compared to people who own more. Differences between richer and poorer people hold even, when looking at people in different age groups. In all age groups people with higher economic standing name medicine less frequently than poorer people. Thus, older people and people with worse economic situations are more likely to name medicine as among their largest monthly expenditures. Interestingly, the same pattern is not present with medical care spending as opposed to spending on medication.


The data show that in all demographic groups in Georgia subsistence related expenses occupy the main position in household expenditures. Food, utilities, and medicine are the top expenditure categories for young and old, well-off and poor, men and women, and people in cities and rural areas. Though, there are of course some differences in expenditures between some demographic groups as well. Older people are less likely to have loans or education related expenses. Economically better off people are more likely to name these among their top expenditures. Moreover, older people and people with worse economic situations are more likely to name medicine related expenses, than younger people and those with better economic situation. Importantly, economic situation remains important even when controlling for age: better-off people are less likely to name medicine related expenses than the poor no matter their age.

Note: This blog post is based on logistic regression analyses. The dependent variable was a dummy variable for mentioning food, cost of utilities, medicine, medical care, or loans as the largest monthly household expense versus not naming this expense.  The independent variables included sex, age group, settlement type, ethnic enclave status, and an additive index of ownership of household items. The data used in the above analysis is available here. The replication code can be found here.


Monday, October 28, 2019

How many cars are there in Tbilisi’s streets?

People in Tbilisi often talk about the growing number of vehicles and problems associated with them. According to NDI and CRRC public opinion surveys, every third Tbilisi resident considers traffic, every fifth parking, and every other pollution among the most important public goods related issues in the city. These issues clearly relate to the cars on Tbilisi streets. Yet, a basic fact that could help inform policy to address these issues – how many cars drive on Tbilisi’s streets – is unknown, with different data sources indicating sharply different estimates.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is responsible for car registration and maintains a database of registered vehicles in the country. The number of registered vehicles are available from the MIA in annual reports and monthly updated lists of vehicles that have valid registration status. The official data suggests that at the moment there are 494,627 vehicles registered in Tbilisi. Excluding agricultural vehicles, specialized vehicles, non-motorized trailers, and two-wheeled vehicles, as some international reports do, suggests there are 462,922 light vehicles, trucks, vans and buses registered in Tbilisi. This is equivalent to 395 vehicles per 1000 residents.

While these numbers are informative, what they really say is how many vehicles are actively registered rather than driving on Tbilisi’s streets. These numbers likely differ, because the registered vehicle list includes cars that are no longer working, but still have valid registration status. These cars are not removed from the vehicle registry, because there is rarely an incentive to do so for the owner such as registration fees or fines for failing to remove the car from the registry. The exceptions to this are when inactive cars are sold for scrap or for export, because the people purchasing the vehicle often request that the owner remove it from the registry.  Given this situation, it is reasonable to believe that the actual number of vehicles driven in the city is lower than the official number of registered vehicles.

Estimating the number of cars
To estimate the number of vehicles driven in the city, the following assumptions are used:

  1. Only light vehicles, trucks, vans, and buses are included in the data analysis. Agricultural vehicles, specialized vehicles, non-motorized trailers, and two-wheeled vehicles are excluded from the data analysis, though they are provided in the MIA data. Aside from international practice, this generally makes sense: agricultural vehicles are on the streets relatively rarely compared to cars and vans. Generally two-wheeled vehicles are not considered due to their lighter impact given their lighter size and parking space needed.
  2. The analysis assumes all registered vehicles under corporate ownership are in working condition and in use, while only some individually owned vehicles are. The rationale behind this is that corporate owners (both state and private) have stronger incentives to de-register vehicles, as they appear on their balance sheets, a factor individual owners do not consider. 
  3. The share of registered vehicles in working condition is estimated using household survey data from April-June, 2016. The analysis assumes that the share of vehicles registered and in working condition has not changed significantly. 

From here, when vehicles is mentioned, it means light vehicles, buses/vans and trucks together. Otherwise, the specific group of vehicles is used (e.g. light vehicles or buses/vans and trucks). All statistics refer to Tbilisi only. When the ownership status is not specified as individual or corporate, all vehicles are included.

As noted above, there is good reason to believe that there are fewer individually owned vehicles in operation than registered in Tbilisi. Hence, survey data is used to estimate the number of individually owned vehicles in use in Tbilisi. The latest publicly available survey data comes from 2016 and is used to estimate the share of individually owned vehicles in use among all individually owned vehicles, and then based on the third assumption above, this number is used to estimate the number of vehicles in combination with 2019 official registry data.

The survey data comes from the Tbilisi Metropolitan Area Transportation Household Survey, which Systra conducted in April-June, 2016. The survey had 6,092 respondents in Tbilisi. It asked about the number of vehicles households have, the vehicle type (light car/SUV, pickup truck, van/boxcar, heavy truck, light truck, microbus or other), ownership status (owned, professional use, rented or other), and frequency of usage. Vehicles in working condition are defined as those that have driven at least one kilometer during the 12 months prior to the survey. According to the survey, there were 168,314 (+/-5,702) individually owned vehicles in use in Tbilisi in 2016.

The next step is the calculation of the share of working vehicles among individually owned registered vehicles in 2016. However, the official registry data provides information about ownership status only for 2017-2019 data, while for 2016, there are only two official statistics available: the number of light vehicles (376,962) and the number of total vehicles (440,042). Ownership status, however, is not available. Hence, to estimate the number of individually owned vehicles in 2016, this post uses the average of 2017-2019 data to estimate:
  • The share of individually owned light vehicles among all registered light vehicles and; 
  • The share of individually owned trucks, vans, and buses among all registered vehicles.
Between 2017 and 2019, the average share of individually owned light vehicles in Tbilisi was 83%. The analysis assumes that the average share of individually owned vehicles among all vehicles did not change significantly between 2016 and 2017-2019. Under this assumption, multiplying the average share of individually owned light vehicles by the total number of registered light vehicles leads to an estimate of the total number of individually owned registered light vehicles. According to the MIA data, there were 376,962 light vehicles registered in Tbilisi in 2016. Of these, approximately 313,896 of them were individually owned based on the above estimate.

As for buses/vans and trucks, the average share of individually owned buses/vans and trucks among all vehicles in 2017-2019 was 4%, which translates to 16,780 individually owned buses/vans and trucks (from 440,042 registered vehicles in 2016). Adding the two estimates leads to an overall estimate of 330,675 individually owned, registered vehicles in 2016. By comparison, the survey data from 2016 indicates that there were 168,314 (+/-5,702) individually owned vehicles that were working in 2016.  These figures taken together suggest that among registered, individually owned vehicles, 51% (+/- 1.7%, due to a survey error) are in working condition and being used.

Assuming that the share of vehicles in use is the same for individually owned vehicles and has not changed significantly in recent years, the number of individually owned light vehicles, buses/vans and trucks in Tbilisi in 2019 is approximately 186,855, out of the 367,101 registered individually owned vehicles. Assuming that all corporate vehicles are working (95,821), there are 282,676 light vehicles, trucks and buses, on the streets of Tbilisi of the 462,922 which are currently registered



Based on the above figures, there are 241 vehicles driving on Tbilisi’s streets per 1000 residents in 2019, 57% of the number that are registered in Tbilisi. The real number of vehicles in Tbilisi’s streets might still be higher than this estimate, as some vehicles are not registered in Tbilisi, but drive on its streets. At the same time, many cars registered in Tbilisi are likely to be driven outside of Tbilisi. Even taking this into account, it seems unlikely that there are so many cars that drive on Tbilisi’s streets but that are registered elsewhere that it would throw this estimate off dramatically.


Even though there are likely less cars on the road than previously thought, the problems they create are foremost in the minds of the residents of Tbilisi. In turn, the data suggests that the impact per car on the problems with parking, traffic, and pollution are larger than one might believe based on the official estimates of cars registered in Tbilisi. In turn, this suggests a clear need for policy to address the issues before they become worse.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Selection of Supreme Court judge candidates: What people in Georgia know and think about the process


Following the constitutional amendments and changes to the organic law of Georgia on common courts, the minimum number of judges at the Supreme Court increased to 28. At the same time, 10-year appointments were changed to lifetime tenures, and the High Council of Justice was given the authority to nominate candidates for parliamentary appointment.  Following these changes, the High Council of Justice started the selection of Supreme Court candidates and in the beginning of September 2019 provided a list of 20 candidates to be submitted to the Parliament of Georgia for approval.  Interviews with candidates were live streamed and the process enjoyed wide media coverage.

The selection process was generally critically received, despite positive assessments of the live-streaming of interviews. The OSCE/ODIHR assessed the Supreme Court judge candidate selection process as “lacking transparency and accountability despite some positive measures to build public trust in the judiciary”.  The Coalition for an Independent and Transparency Judiciary was also critical of the process as well as the regulatory framework, which “allowed the formation of a list of candidates suiting the interests of the dominant group of judges and the ruling party”.
What does the public in Georgia know about the process and what is their attitude towards the selection of Supreme Court candidates and judicial institutions? A phone survey conducted on September 5-11, 2019 suggests that people in Georgia are divided in their trust towards judicial institutions, are not knowledgeable about the process, have little trust in it, and largely have not heard of the selected candidates.

Generally, the public is divided in whether they trust the High Council of Justice, Supreme Court, and the court system in general. About half of the public trusts and distrusts each of these institutions.

The public is also divided in terms of awareness of the selection process of Supreme Court candidates. Approximately half of the Georgian-speaking adult population (54%) has heard of the selection process of Supreme Court candidates. However, their attitude to it is not particularly positive, as about half of those who have heard about the selection do not trust the process (53%). Similarly, almost half of those who heard about the selection process, say the selection was not unbiased (48%).

The survey asked respondents to share their first association regarding the selection of the Supreme Court candidates. The majority (64%) did not have any association, responding don’t know. Of those who shared their view, there were both positive and negative associations as well as neutral ones. However, negative attitudes predominated. Overall, 3% of respondents reported a positive word, 20% reported a negative association and 10% of responses were neutral. The top three associations were that “appointment should not be lifetime” (6%), “insecurity” (3%), and “distrust” (2%). Positive associations included “hope” (1%), “the process is going in a good direction” (0.6%), and “fair court”. Some of the negative associations were: “negative attitude” (2%), “unfairness” (1%), and “clan” (1%).

After the long selection process, the High Council of Justice finalized the list of 20 candidates to be submitted to the Parliament. The survey asked about whether each candidate should or should not be appointed as a Supreme Court judge. The majority of people in Georgia (over 60% for most candidates) reported that they have not heard of the candidate. Attitudes were most approving of appointment towards: Shalva Tadumadze, Prosecutor General (14% of the population approve of his appointment), Giorgi Mikautadze, Secretary of the High Council of Justice (13% of the population approve of his appointment), and Shota Getsadze, judge of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals (10% of the population approve of his appointment).

About one fifth of the adult Georgian-speaking population (19%) says appointment of these 20 candidates will improve justice in the country. The same share (19%) says the state of justice will get worse. About a third (29%) believe it will stay the same.

Considering the knowledge of the population about the selection process and their attitude to it, it may not be surprising that only 1% of the Georgian-speaking adult population considered it one of the most important events of the summer.  The top five events named during the survey were:

  • The devaluation of Georgian Lari; 
  • Dissolution of the June 20 rally;
  • Further moving the administrative boundary line between Georgia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region;
  • The protest rallies “It’s a shame” and; 
  • Gavrilov’s visit to Parliament. 

More than a quarter of people responded “Don’t know” to the question or refused to answer altogether. There were non-relevant answers as well, such as “good weather” and “lack of water and electricity”, etc.



Overall, the public is divided in their trust towards judicial institutions. More than half of the population has heard of the Supreme Court judge selection process, though few find it to be among the most important events over the summer. Among those that are aware of the selection process, attitudes are more negative than positive. A majority of people in Georgia have never heard about the candidates.

Note: This blog post has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of CRRC-Georgia, EMC and IDFI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

On September 5-11, 2019, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey to find out people’s knowledge and attitude about the Supreme Court selection process. The survey resulted in 867 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The average margin of error of the survey is 2.2%.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Public Opinion in Georgia on Premarital Sex for Women

Conservative traditions are deeply rooted in Georgian society, particularly when it comes to premarital sex. The 2019 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia Survey, which CRRC Georgia carried out in partnership with Europe Foundation, shows that as in the past waves of the survey, people think that it is more justified for men than women to have pre-marital sex. Between the 2017 and 2019 waves of the survey, the shares of people thinking it is justified has not changed significantly.


 
To explore the issue in greater depth, read this blog post which breaks down the demographics on attitudes using the 2017 wave of the survey or look at the data using our Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Young people are learning English in Georgia

A common sentiment when discussing foreign languages in Georgia is that young people know some English, older people know Russian, and those in between are mixed. Previous CRRC Georgia analysis from 2014 supported this claim, showing that knowledge of English was on the rise among young people. The 2019 survey on Knowledge and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia which CRRC Georgia carried out for Europe Foundation suggests that this trend is continuing in Georgia.

Since 2009 when the survey asked respondents to assess their knowledge of English, the share reporting they have no basic knowledge of English has declined from 73% to 58% in 2019, a 15 percentage point decline. When broken down by age, young people (18-35) have experienced the largest drop and older people (56+) the smallest in reporting no knowledge of English. Compared with 2009, young people are 22 percentage points less likely to report they have no basic knowledge of English. By comparison, people between the ages of 36 and 55 are 16 percentage points less likely to report no knowledge of English and people 56+ are 9 percentage points less likely to report no basic knowledge of English.


When it comes to Russian, the share of people who have no basic knowledge of Russian is much smaller – around 10% of adults in Georgia report no basic knowledge of Russian and this has been static over the years. However, the share of young people reporting either intermediate or advanced Russian knowledge has declined since 2009. While 70% of young people (18-35) reported intermediate or advanced knowledge of Russian in 2009, 54% did in 2019.



In Georgia, English language knowledge appears to be on the rise among young people. Although a lack of basic knowledge of Russian has remained low in Georgia over the last decade, people’s self-assessed fluency has declined, particularly among the young.

The data used in this blog post is available here.