Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Migration from Georgia: capturing data

Migration is one of the major stories in the former Soviet Union. However, we know surprisingly little about the actual patterns, since they are difficult to measure. George Tsuladze has done some research, on the basis of the 2002 census.

His research shows that the official census data is not very good at capturing migration. By definition, a census cannot reach people that are no longer at home, and often entire families migrated. In this case, all they leave is a locked door (or another family living in there, talking about themselves).

Another reason is that respondents often don't like giving honest answers about members of the household being abroad. Women being left alone at home, with their children, typically won't really want to tell a stranger ("what's that, again? A census?") that their husband isn't likely to be back in the next few months. Voter lists, ownership, taxes, entitlements, extra income through remittances, general distrust of the state -- all sorts of reasons not to be upfront.

Moreover, migration is seasonal: sometimes people just go for the summer (especially if they work in construction, or other seasonal sectors). So any May and June, although a good time for going around the country, is a bad time for capturing migration.

Tsuladze does cite the data there is, with all the caveats:

  • about 59% of immigrants are male, 41% female;
  • of the female migrants, 34% are single when emigrating
  • about 43% of male, and 36% of female migrants support families that have stayed at home (this is actually a fairly low number, and may reflect some reluctance to admit receiving remittances; or an insufficient clarification what "financial support" means)
  • all of the nationalities living in Georgia have fairly high numbers of emigration, but the Greeks emigrate disproportionally (no news here, though)

I would still like to know:
  • What exactly are the patterns?
  • What are the percentages of migrating with the entire family?
  • and: some studies of how families develop.

Tamara Zurabishvili is doing more research work on migration, on a CRRC-fellowship, doing an alternative census with an orientation towards comparing actual census data with her own work. She will survey 1200 households in Daba Tianeti, an area particularly affected by emigration.

At any rate, innovative techniques for capturing the real data are needed, not least for estimating demographic trends.

The UNHCR wanted to translate George Tsuladze's work, so it may become available in English.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Framing the South Ossetian conflict

How does the Georgian media frame the conflict in South Ossetia? This is what Badri Koplatadze, who teaches journalism at GIPA, examined in a study. Not many surprises here, but we get a better sense of how the Georgian media approaches its reporting. Koplatadze analyzed 150 articles, published throughout the summer of 2004, when the most recent flareup of this conflict happened.

So what key words, sources and frames are being used? As the study shows, there's a lot to analyze.

This starts with the contested question of who the parties are: 48% of the analyzed articles (from the main three Georgia newspapers, 24 Saati, Rezonansi, Akhali Taoba) see this as a Georgian-Ossetian conflict. At the same time, 42% of the articles actually refer to this as a Georgian Russian confrontation (which obviously has implications for who you think should be sitting on a conference table, and may be reflected in the Georgian government's apparent strategy of "unfreezing by internationalizing").

And what do they call the conflict zone? 48% of articles talk about the conflict in the "Tskhinvali Region", whereas 42% call it South Ossetia, and only very few will refer to it as "Samachablo", its original Georgian name.

Did the Georgian media get all sides of the story? Not really: only 26% of the stories actually quote Ossetians' comments. The most frequently cited were Georgia law enforcers. (Presumably they were also most easily accessible to Georgian journalists.) Similar issues about accessibility may have influenced the selection of photos: 71% of research articles were supplemented by a photo, but these primarily depicted representatives of the Georgian government.

There is quite a bit more and details of the study again are online. I'm told it's based on so-called "frame theory", which is one of the ways of systematically analyzing texts for how they conceptualize an issue. See for more, or write to us.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

History vs Public Policy

The Economist observes that, being caught in complex cross-tensions, it would help if the three countries of the South Caucasus cooperated on some minimally shared interests.

'But they are all, as Raffi Hovannisian, a former Armenian foreign minister, says of his country, "long on civilisation, short on statecraft."'
(The Economist, November 18-24, 2006, The art of levitation: how Armenia copes with its isolation in the combustible Caucasus.)

Maybe a worthwhile topic for a reflective paper (something like a Master's Thesis): analyze South Caucasus handling of history through Nietzsche's essay on "Uses and Abuses of History". This is, in case anyone has not read it, some of Nietzsche's best writing, with none of the tiring hyperbole of much of his other work.

Arguably the region is a perfect illustration of that essay -- how a place can have, simultaneously, too much and too little history: many unfortunate experiences, worse interpretations, and, as of yet, no successful tradition to build on, from which to establish publicly shared practices.

Douglas North, and his relevance to Azerbaijan

Recently a post by Farid Gulyev, founder of the Azerbaijani_Studies List:

"Economist Douglass North, Nobel Prize speech 1993
'Evolution requires that society develop institutions that will permit anonymous, impersonal exchange across time and space…In fact most societies throughout history got "stuck" in an institutional matrix that did not evolve into the impersonal exchange essential to capturing the productivity gains that came from the specialization and division of labor...'
After this quote, Farid continues: "How right he was. Can we achieve anything if we and those who rule over us do not understand this simple principle?"

A very neat summary.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Caucasus Election Programs in the 1990s

Nani Chkhaidze compared the 1990s election programs of parties that won the elections in the South Caucasus. According to a "qualification scheme" (David Robertson, 1957), these are the differences between the countries:

  • Democracy, social justice, welfare state expansion was most emphasized in Azerbaijan (followed by Armenia, than Georgia).
  • Ecological issues were more popular in Georgian party programs, than there were in Armenia (and least relevant in Azerbaijan).
  • Education expansion was also most popular in Georgia, again followed by Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Comparison across such countries are always hazardous, especially since party programs (and, arguably, elections) played a limited role, especially in the later 1990s. But the findings in ecology and education seem to support anecdotal evidence. In the environmental field, Georgia may also have the sense that it has more treasures to protect.

More detail is available on the CRRC website, but unfortunately only in Georgian.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Labor Snapshot - how does one live?

What does a Georgian worker earn? In a good company (a well-earning mine), the more lucky workers earn 600GEL (a little more than 300USD) a month, for six 24-hour shifts. The work is fairly responsible. Mistakes entail environmental hazards. Holidays are not paid. On that level, some sort of normality can kick in. Still time to do odd jobs, do some farming, look after the garden.

Other workers in the company earn about 500 GEL, for longer work, but with a less demanding boss.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Marriage statistics -- food for thought, hunger for data

I would like to know more about this: are more people getting married, or are just more couples getting registered? And is it really the case that more of a third of the registered marriages are between Georgians and foreign citizens? We should get comparative data from Armenia (which would include diaspora-marriages) and Azerbaijan. Data, data, data....
"During January-September 2006, the State Registry issued marriage certificates to 4004 Georgian citizens marrying foreigners. Of those, 3611 citizens were sent documents to register their marriage from abroad and 393 Georgians married a foreigner in Georgia. Georgians marry foreigners primarily from Russia, Greece, the US, Israel, Turkey and Germany, reports the newspaper Akhali Versia."

Total registered weddings:
2005 -- 18,012
2004 -- 14,866
2000 -- 12,870

Source: Department of Statistics
, World of weddings, By M. Alkhazashvili, The Messenger, 6 Nov, 2006