Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The Olympics in Sochi, Russia, took place about 30 kilometers from Russia’s border with the separatist region of Abkhazia in Georgia. As a security precaution, the Russian government has temporarily moved its border 11 kilometers into Abkhazia to create a “security zone,” at which travelers entering will have to show identification before proceeding to the actual border with Russia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the status of Abkhazia within Georgia has been the subject of heated debate.  Russia has a strong political and military influence in Abkhazia and has been erecting fences and wires along the administrative boundary line with Georgia proper, as well as the area controlled by Abkhaz authorities. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer (CB) asks Georgians several questions concerning the status of Abkhazia and what they see as the best and most realistic solution to resolving its status.

Source: The New York Times

Only 13% of Georgians think that the conflict with Abkhazia will be resolved within the next five years.  29% believe that it will be resolved in six years or more, 12% believe it will never be resolved, and 46% did not know or refused to answer. Georgians are reluctant to accord Abkhazia any form of autonomy or independence, though the Georgian government currently regards Abkhazia as an autonomous republic within Georgia. Georgians overwhelmingly support having Abkhazia as a formal part of Georgia, without autonomy (74%). 33% of Georgians definitely favor giving Abkhazia a high degree of autonomy, and 24% of Georgians are open to autonomy in Abkhazia under certain circumstances. The vast majority of Georgians say they would never accept Abkhazia as an independent country (78%) or as a formal part of Russia (87%).

On an individual level, Georgian perceptions of Abkhazians have not changed significantly in recent years. Currently, 73% of Georgians approve of doing business with Abkhazians and 35% approve of Georgian women marrying Abkhazians. Approval of doing business and marrying Abkhazians is higher among Georgians living in the capital and Georgians in the 18-35 year old age group, while acceptance is lower among Georgians living in rural areas and among older age groups.

Among Georgian citizens, ethnic Georgians are more likely to approve of women of their ethnicity marrying Abkhazians. 38% of ethnic Georgians approve, compared to 26% of ethnic Armenians and 6% of ethnic Azeris living in Georgia. Similarly, 76% of ethnic Georgians approve of doing business with Abkhazians, compared to 57% of ethnic Armenians and 45% of ethnic Azeris living in Georgia.

Overall, Georgians significantly favor maintaining the territorial integrity of Georgia, with little or no autonomy for Abkhazia, but are not optimistic about a resolution taking effect in the next few years. Ethnic Georgians also strongly approve of doing business with Abkhazians, though less so of Georgian women marrying Abkhazians.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Income Levels in Georgia from 2008 to 2013

Following the world financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the global recession of 2008-2009, GDP growth slowed and unemployment increased in many countries. From a peak of 12.34% GDP growth in 2007, Georgia’s GDP contracted by 3.78% in 2009, leveling out to an average of 6.4% GDP growth over 2010 to 2012. Official unemployment in Georgia also worsened over that period, starting at 13.3% in 2007, peaking at 16.9% in 2009 and falling down to 15% by 2012. However, over the same period of time, GDP per capita in Georgia increased from USD 2,920 in 2008 to USD 3,490 in 2012. Household monetary income and ownership of consumer goods, in particular, have noticeably increased since 2008 in Georgia.
Comparing data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) 2008 and 2013, the percentage of Georgian households earning under USD 100 per month has decreased by 10% since 2008, and 15% more households now earn over USD 100 per month. The greatest decrease occurred in the USD 51-100 bracket (down 6%) and the greatest increase occurred in the USD 101-250 bracket (up 10%) indicating that the greatest shift in income occurred from Georgian households crossing the USD 100 per month threshold. Household income is higher in urban than in rural areas in Georgia; 51% of urban households have monthly incomes of under USD 250, but 72% of rural households do.

Household spending is also up. In 2008, 30% of households spent under USD 100 per month and 54% over USD 100. In 2013, only 18% of households spent under USD 100 per month and 72% spent over USD 100 per month, including 37% that spent over USD 251 per month.
Supporting this income and spending data is the increase in household ownership of consumer goods from 2008 to 2013. The most dramatic increases from 2008 to 2013 have been in automatic washing machine ownership (27% to 51%) and cell phone ownership (65% to 89%). Aside from car ownership, urban household ownership of consumer goods is 10-30% higher than that of rural households, depending on the item in question.

Households have also had to limit their consumption of food, utilities and transportation due to budget difficulties less frequently. Electricity is the only item that appears to have remained constant with respect to households’ need to limit their consumption. There is no statistically significant difference between urban and rural households in their limiting of consumption in the mentioned areas.

Some indicators have not shifted significantly since 2008. The frequency of households borrowing money for food or utilities has not changed significantly, and the perceived relative economic condition of Georgians has notably decreased since 2008. Also, considerably more Georgians consider themselves poor or very poor relative to other Georgians than they did in 2008.

Only 19% of Georgians believe that up to USD 400 is the minimal monthly income for a normal life, yet 76% of Georgian households earn under USD 400 monthly. However, 61% of Georgians believe that their children will be financially better off at their age, against only 5% viewing their children as the same or worse off. Georgians consider education (28%), the country’s economic situation (16%), and the ability to work hard (15%) to be the three most important factors that will contribute to their children being better off. For more information on income levels in Georgia please view CRRC’s online data analysis tool.