Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CRRC Methods Conference: Advancing Methodological Innovations in the South Caucasus

On June 20, 2013 CRRC convened a conference on research methods in Tbilisi that brought together researchers from the South Caucasus and beyond to discuss methodological developments in the social sciences. The conference was attended by over 50 people and the program included 13 presentations of research projects carried out in the region and elsewhere, followed by discussions and Q&A sessions. Interdisciplinary approaches and broad methodological interests motivated a fruitful debate on previous and ongoing research projects -both qualitative and quantitative. Time was also devoted to discussing the policy-relevance of presented studies, as well as the next steps that need to be taken in order to promote high caliber research and to foster rigorous methodological training in the region. 

The keynote speech, delivered by Dr. Cynthia Buckley, highlighted the institutional context in which social research is being carried out and results are disseminated. This included a discussion of funding organizations, policy advisory bodies, academic and social research institutes, and the complex network of relations between them. The speech helped participants to focus on methodological advancements, as well as practical applications of the presented studies. 

The research projects presented at the conference included a wide range of topics, research designs and used qualitative, quantitative or mixed-method approaches. Several presentations used online and internet-based methods – a promising medium for research in the region since the share of internet users is consistently increasing in the South Caucasus.

The qualitative studies that were discussed highlighted social issues such as interethnic marriage in the South Caucasus, and Armenian diaspora in the region. The quantitative research projects that were presented primarily focused on policy-relevant issues, such as the work ethic in Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey, the prospect of compulsory healthcare insurance in Armenia, and time-based measures for paid and unpaid work, as well as labour force participation. Other areas of particular interest were business and the accuracy of economic performance estimations.

This 2013 conference begins a cycle of annual conferences that will address methodological challenges, data collection techniques, and developments in social science research carried out in the South Caucasus. 

For more information on the conference and this year’s presentations, please see the conference programme and draft papers available on the CRRC website

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What is Important for Getting a Good Job in the South Caucasus?

Paid work is one of the most common forms of social activity, and opinions about the mechanisms regulating labour force participation can reveal beliefs on how social life works in general. This post examines what factors people in the South Caucasus consider to be most important to get a good job. Belief in the role of meritocratic factors is strongest in Georgia across all labour market categories. On average, Azerbaijanis attribute more value to social networks, and this answer is most popular among the unemployed. Armenians attach similar weight to both of these factors. However, unlike in the other two countries, personal traits also seem to play a role there. More detailed analysis shows existing within-country differences in the distribution of answers across four labour market categories.

This post is pivoted around a question from the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) about factors that facilitate getting a good job in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Such factors reflect wider beliefs about what is needed to be recruited into the labour-force – an issue important in the South Caucasus region which is trapped by high unemployment. Three categories of distinctive factors encompass collapsed answer items as follows: meritocratic criterion (education, hard work, talent, professional abilities and work experience), social networks (connections and doing favours for the ‘right’ people), and personal traits (age and appearance). A fourth distinctive factor, entirely beyond individual control, is luck. 

Georgians are most likely to believe that getting a good job is based on meritocratic merits, such as professional experience or education. Azerbaijanis put more weight on the importance of social networks and meritocratic achievements come second on the list. However, the results are opposite when the unemployed are excluded from the sample. Armenians seem to be in between the two countries in terms of their assessment of these factors; the importance of meritocratic merits and social networks is viewed similarly. Armenians are also relatively most likely to attribute success in getting a good job to personal traits such as age or appearance. Out of the three countries Georgians are most likely to put an emphasis on luck. 

More detailed analyses show important within-country differences in the perception of factors facilitating getting a good job. These differences are related to status within the labour market: student, employed, unemployed and self-employed. Although students formally are not qualified as ‘active’ in the labour market, they are included in this analysis as a group that constitutes the future labour force and who also shape normative assessments of labour regulating-mechanisms. 

Meritocratic criteria were perceived as most important by students in Azerbaijan and Georgia (56% and 69%, respectively), but what is interesting is that students in Armenia pointed to social networks more often than meritocratic factors (51% versus 46%). Social networks were also perceived as most important by the unemployed Armenians, and of similar importance to meritocratic criterion for the employed part of the population. Only self-employed Armenians attached significantly more importance to the meritocratic criterion.

Those who are employed in Azerbaijan put meritocratic issues first, and only those who are unemployed attribute getting a good job mostly to social networks, while social networks and meritocratic factors are considered relatively equal for the self-employed people. In Georgia all categories attach greatest importance to meritocratic criteria.    

Perceptions of what it takes to get a good job provides important information about whether people think they can do something to change their condition or if they think situational or environmental factors are more important. 

For more information on factors which are considered to be most important for getting a good job in the South Caucasus please see our previous post on the CRRC blog. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Unemployment and Job Satisfaction in the South Caucasus

The importance of the labour market for social and economic stability is unquestionable. An analysis of CB 2012 survey data for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia shows a high level of social concern about work-related conditions such as unemployment. Even those who have a job are more likely to be dissatisfied with it in Armenia, compared to Georgia where more people are neutral about their job, and Azerbaijan in which the majority says they are satisfied with their job. This post provides information on the relative importance of labour market-related issues in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as perceived by respondents from these countries. This blog also presents levels of job satisfaction in the South Caucasus region.

This post uses data from CB 2012 questions about the most important issues facing the country, which includes two answer items pertaining to the labour market: unemployment and wages. These two items were collapsed into a single category which I shall call the “Labour market“ for the analytical purposes of this blog. Other general categories were the rule of law, social and economic issues (excluding labour market), international relations, tolerance and human rights, and political and territorial stability.

Labour market concerns top the list of important national issues in Georgia and Armenia. In Azerbaijan these concerns come second after the issue of political and territorial stability, mostly due to the high concern with unsolved territorial conflicts. Interestingly, other social and economic issues altogether (including poverty, pensions or inflation) do not outweigh the importance of employment for the three countries.  

The original answer options were collapsed into more general categories: Labour market (unemployment and low wages), Social and economic issues (unaffordability of healthcare, low pensions, poverty, low quality of education, rising prices/ inflation), Political and territorial stability (lack of peace, political instability, unsolved territorial conflicts), Rule of law (corruption, unfairness of courts, unfairness of elections, violation of property rights), Tolerance and human rights (violation of human rights, religious intolerance), and International relations (not having NATO membership, relations with Russia).

Further statistical analysis (logistic regression using country, years of education, settlement type, age and gender) show that both Armenians and Georgians are over 3 times more likely than Azerbaijanis to say these labour market concerns are central issues for their country. These answers mostly reflect concern about unemployment rates in these countries (19% in Armenia, 15.1% in Georgia and 5.4% in Azerbaijan in 2011 according to the World Bank and International Labour Organization). It is also worthwhile to mention here that Azerbaijan is a middle income country, which is not the case for Armenia or Georgia. Type of settlement also matters; across the three countries capital residents are least likely to put labour market-related issues first on the priority list, while inhabitants of rural areas do so significantly more often.

Disparities in unemployment rates and minimum wage across the region (for more detail see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, United States Department of State, 2012) might be influential macro-level factors triggering cross-national differences in the assessment of the labour market importance. However, other indicators suggest that substantial differences also exist on an individual level – such as evaluations of job satisfaction which reflects personal experiences at work.

On average, Armenians are most dissatisfied with their work, while Azerbaijanis are the most satisfied. Interestingly, there are significant cross-sectorial differences in the level of satisfaction with work in Armenia and Georgia. In both countries people who work in construction, trade, or education are significantly less satisfied than people who work in agriculture, forestry or who are self-employed. Employment sector is not a significantly differentiating criterion in Azerbaijan. Lastly, the level of satisfaction with one‘s jobs is not related to the assessment of the labour market as an important issue facing the country. This, however, does not mean they cannot both reflect more general problems trapping labour force in the analysed markets, especially as the average level of job satisfaction is lower in countries with higher unemployment and lower minimum wage.

For more data on employment and perceptions of labour market issues please visit the CRRC website to download the complete CB 2012 dataset.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Different Perceptions of God in the South Caucasus

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) commissioned several new questions about religion and religiosity in the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB). The questions show similarities and differences regarding perception of God in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some of the questions asked in the CB were similarly to those in Chalfant’s 1993 study of “Images of God in which he examined “experiences of sacred” among Protestants and Catholics. In his survey, Chalfant asked respondents to provide adjectives such as judge, lover, healer, friend and liberator for images that come to their mind when they think about God. His results showed that Catholic men most commonly identified God as a liberator, while Protestant men most commonly identified God as a healer. This blog discusses two similar questions in the South Caucasus.

ARDA’s project examining religion and religiosity in several countries around the world included Georgia (84% Georgian Orthodox, 10% Muslim), Armenia (95% Armenian Apostolic), and Azerbaijan (60% Shia and 30% Sunni). With these different religious contexts in mind, the 2012 CB specifically asked about adjectives or statements that people in these three countries associate with God. Specifically, the CB 2012 asked people to indicate which adjectives they felt described God (e.g., distant, wrathful, ever-present, loving, forgiving and punishing).  The majority (81%-96%) in all three countries say God is forgiving, loving and ever-present. Around a third of Georgians and Azerbaijanis describe God as distant and wrathful, while a much greater percentage of Armenians 78% and 56%, respectively, say the same.

The CB also asked about statements that people might associate with God. Georgians and Azerbaijanis similarly feel that God shows the difference between right and wrong (77% and 78%, respectively) or that God rewards the faithful with major success (76% and 80%, respectively). To add, Armenians and Georgians have similar perceptions that God punishes sinners with terrible woes (50% and 49%, respectively) and is direct involved in their private affairs (62% and 67%, respectively).

The fact that Azerbaijanis are less likely to think that God is directly involved in their affairs is interesting, especially if we consider the conclusions drawn from a previous blog which shows that private religiosity and a personal relationship with God are becoming more important for Azerbaijanis (although religious attendance remains low and trust in religious institutions is moderate).

This blog has compared a few new questions about people’s thoughts about God in the South Caucasus. The results show that the majority of people in all three countries describe God using positive adjectives such as loving, ever-present and forgiving although the three populations have different predominant religions. However, there are clear differences between Georgia and Azerbaijan on one hand and Armenia on the other with regard to descriptions such as wrathful and distant. Further analysis and open-ended questions would be recommended to explore the meanings behind these similarities and differences.

You can further explore the 2012 CB and data on religion and religiosity at http://www.crrc.ge/oda/?dataset=20 or http://www.crrc.ge/oda/ for previous 2011 data on the Online Data Analysis Tool (2012 data to follow on the ODA).