Wednesday, March 20, 2013

International Day of Happiness

This year an International Day of Happiness will be celebrated for the first time on March 20th. In 2012, the United Nations (UN) declared this day to be an official holiday to highlight the importance of happiness as a fundamental human aim and to call upon countries to approach public policy in ways that improve the well-being of their citizens. This aim was inspired by the Gross National Happiness Index which was developed in Bhutan to measure prosperity by gauging its citizens' happiness. The index measures the average economic, environmental, physical, political and social wellness of Bhutanese society based on survey data. Although this specific index does not exist in other countries, several surveys worldwide have asked how happy people consider themselves to be.
The annual Caucasus Barometer (CB) asks people in all three countries of the South Caucasus, “How happy would you say you are?” The results reveal that Azerbaijanis have consistently evaluated their level of happiness lower than Armenians and Georgians within the past 3 years, although it has increased from 2010 to 2012. The level of happiness in Armenia has also slightly increased from 2010 to 2012, whereas in Georgia it has remained higher than in the other 2 countries. 

 This question was asked on a 1 to 10 scale where 1=Not happy at all and 10=Very happy. 
The results shown here combine the responses for items 8, 9 and 10 on this scale.

Some think happiness is a result of high economic performance. Yet, this is easily refuted by looking at the Gallup’s 2012 list of “happiest nations” in the world which is topped by several relatively poor countries in South America and South Asia. Additionally, this analysis gives insight into people’s expectations about their well-being and finances in the coming year. This measure is called “Net Hope on Economy”. In 2012, Gallup asked 1,000 people in 54 countries if they feel that the next year will be a year of economic prosperity, economic difficulty or remain the same. Net Hope on Economy was calculated by deducting the percent optimistic (hopeful about economic prospects in 2013) from the percent pessimistic (those who see greater economic difficulty in 2013). The results show that Georgians rank #1 and Azerbaijanis rank #2 on this list of 54 countries, with the highest hopes of economic prosperity for 2013. Armenians ranked #22 with slightly more pessimists than optimists.  

Source: WIN-Gallup International Association,
Global Barometer of Hope and Happiness, December 30, 2012

The CB 2012 also asks about future economic expectations, but specifically regarding children. Georgians, Armenia and Azerbaijanis were asked, “Do you think your children will be better off or worse off financially than you are when they are your age?” The results reveal that between two fifths to two thirds of people in the South Caucasus are optimistic. Georgians are the most positive, followed by Azerbaijanis and Armenians whose results are closer to each other.  

In this blog we aimed to show the pursuit of new measures of well-being and happiness. Some movements have embraced new ways of measuring prosperity through happiness or future expectations, thus showing that economic indices are not solely important. 
On the occasion of the first International Day of Happiness, we wish everybody to live up to their expectations and to achieve the underlying meaning of this day. 
Access the full Gallup report here and the CB 2012 here for more information on this data. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gender Attitudes toward Education in Azerbaijan

Girls outperform boys in science in Azerbaijan, according to data from a recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Girls Lead in Science Exam, but Not in the United States”. This article discusses results from a worldwide test conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among 15-year-olds in 65 developed countries 2009. As indicated by the test, Azerbaijan’s scores were on the lower end of the surveyed countries. Female participants, however, had an average score of 377, while males scored an average of 370, a difference of slightly less than 2%. Though this difference is arguably inconsequential, CRRC data suggest that there are slight variations in Azerbaijani males’ and females’ attitudes toward the value of education in general.

According to the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB), Azerbaijani women place greater value on education than do their male counterparts. The CB 2012 survey showed that 22% of Azerbaijani women indicated education as the most important factor for finding a good job, as compared to 19% of male respondents—although the difference between these two figures is small and barely within the margin of error.

Similarly, data from CRRC’s 2012 Social Capital, Media andGender Survey (commissioned by SIDA) indicate higher levels of education-related activism among Azerbaijani women. Whereas nearly 30% of Azerbaijani women indicated at least some involvement in education, school, or parents’ committees in the last twelve months, only 22% of Azerbaijani men indicated involvement in similar education-related organizations.

Azerbaijani women's proclivity for reading was also higher. According to 2012 SIDA data, 40% of women respondents indicated they had read a book in the last six months, while the number for men stood at 33%

Though CRRC data suggest that Azerbaijani women might be involved in more educational activities and place greater value on education for getting a good job than men, CB 2012 indicated that Azerbaijani women actually have lower levels of post-secondary education than their male counterparts. For example, 18% of Azerbaijani men indicated that they had achieved post-secondary education, while the figure for women was slightly lower at 13%.

Though the variations in the above cases are generally quite small, CRRC data are consistent with the OECD's test and indicate that women may be slightly more attuned to the value of education than men in Azerbaijan. Although women's educational value and performance in science exceed men's, Azerbaijani women still appear to be less represented in terms of post-secondary education. 

For more data on education and attitudes in Azerbaijan visit the new 2012 Caucasus Barometer dataset.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Inequality of Job Opportunities Across the South Caucasus

The World Development Report 2013, which was newly released and presented in Tbilisi a couple of weeks  ago states that, “The concept of equality of opportunity, which can be traced back to John Rawls and Robert Nozick, stems from the idea that an individual’s chances of success in life should not be caused by circumstances that are beyond the individual’s control, such as gender, ethnicity, location of birth, or family background.” The report is mainly devoted to investigating jobs challenges and problems of employment, including unequal opportunities to find a job due to specific circumstances. This report included a chart from the 2006 Life in Transition Survey (LTS) that identifies the level of inequality of job opportunities based on circumstances, age and education across countries (i.e. the “Dissimilarity Index” or D index). Differences in the results among countries can be observed in the table below, yet data from the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) show shifting priorities for obtaining a good job in the South Caucasus countries.

The LTS chart from 2006 indicates that education is a major source of inequality of job opportunities in Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, the inequality D-index for Armenia was approximately 11 times higher than in Georgia and 3 times higher than in Azerbaijan. For Georgia and Azerbaijan, circumstances such as gender, ethnicity, parental education and political affiliation influenced the inequality of job opportunities. In contrast, these circumstances constituted the least share of the D-index in Armenia. Age was found to be least influential in all three countries, yet, it was about 3 times larger in Armenia and Azerbaijan than in Georgia. 

The more recent 2012 CB asked about factors that Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis consider most important for getting a good job in their countries. CB data show that connections is considered to be the most important factor for getting a job in Armenia and Azerbaijan, whereas education is considered to be the most important factor in Georgia. Education is also deemed to be the second most important factor in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Additionally, doing favors for the ‘right’ people stands as the third most important factor in Azerbaijan, while professional abilities is third for Georgia and Armenia. Appearance and age are considered to be more important factors for getting a good job in Armenia than in other two countries, whereas hard work, luck and talent are perceived to hold more weight in Georgia.

This blog has shown that there are different perceptions about how different factors relate to job opportunities in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Whereas education, circumstances and age are shown to be the most basic reasons for job inequality in the LTS survey, connections and education are the dominant factors for getting a good job in all 3 countries according to the CB. 

If you are interested in issues regarding attitudes towards getting a good job please visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Internet and Computer Usage in Azerbaijan

The level of computer and Internet usage has become a salient issue in Azerbaijan in recent years, particularly in light of efforts to diversify the country's hydrocarbon-rich economy through the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. Taking into consideration a number of bold ICT development initiatives, what do levels of computer and Internet usage actually look like in Azerbaijan? This blog underlines various contradictory statistics and seeks to provide a realistic measure of Internet and computer penetration among Azerbaijanis.

In March 2012, the State Fund for the Development of IT under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies (MCIT) was created by presidential decree. An additional presidential decree in November 2012 called for the establishment of a High Technology Park in Azerbaijan for the “preparation of new and high technologies, research in the field of energy efficiency, space and telecommunications, information technology and communications.” Concurrently, MCIT indicates that broadband Internet access has grown significantly since its inception in 2006, while also claiming that Internet access is, at least theoretically, available to all of Azerbaijan’s population given “the fact that mobile penetration in Azerbaijan exceeded 100%”.

Accordingly, MCIT’s Internet penetration statistics for 2011 are quite high. The number of computer users in Azerbaijan stood at 48%, while the figure for Internet users was 65%. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, likewise indicated a high Internet penetration rate for 2011 with a reported 50% of Azerbaijanis using the Internet. ITU’s statistics come from administrative data sources that compile various data from telecommunications operators, and they indicate that Internet penetration has grown by over 80% since 2009 and by nearly 200% since 2008.

Data from CRRC’s 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) suggest lower levels of Internet penetration in Azerbaijan. 59% of Azerbaijanis claimed to “never” use the Internet in 2012, while 12% indicated they did not know what the Internet was. In contrast, 19% of Azerbaijanis stated they used Internet once a week or more, with 7% indicating they used Internet at least once a month or less often. Despite the overall low frequency of Internet usage in 2012, there has been an increase in Internet usage since 2011.

As a whole, CB data from 2011 and 2012 suggest significantly lower levels of Internet penetration in comparison to ITU and MCIT figures.

Regarding computer ownership, data from CRRC’s 2012 SocialCapital, Media, and Gender Survey (commissioned by SIDA) indicated that 25% of Azerbaijani households owned a personal computer. Out of those individuals who indicated household PC ownership, 73% claimed to have Internet access through a personal computer—roughly 18% of the population. These data are relatively consistent with recent Gallup data on home Internet access. According to Gallup’s 2011 Worldwide Tracking, 15% of Azerbaijanis had access to Internet at home, while 2012 polling indicated that the number had increased to 22%.

Data on Internet penetration and computer usage in Azerbaijan are obviously quite varied. Given that ITU and MCIT data come from similar sources, however, it seems reasonable that actual levels of Internet and computer usage are lower than statistics from official and UN sources.

It is apparent that Azerbaijan would like to develop its ICT sector through the implementation of high-profile, “supply-side” development initiatives. In addition to the State Fund for the Development of IT and the planned High Technology Park, the MCIT could possibly support its goals by encouraging increased computer and Internet penetration at the grassroots level. If more Azerbaijanis were made aware of the benefits of the Internet, it is conceivable that Azerbaijan may be able to develop a more Internet savvy population and in turn create the necessary human capital to support its ICT initiatives.

For more information on Internet and technology in Azerbaijan visit the new 2012 Caucasus Barometer dataset.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Visa Liberalization Prospects in Georgia – the Way Open for Temporary Emigrants?

Last week the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, presented the Georgian government with a Visa Liberalization Plan between Georgia and the EU. This is significant progress from the previous Visa Facilitation Agreement from 2010 which eased the visa application process for Georgian citizens wanting to go to the EU. Under this previous agreement, the cost of an EU visa was reduced from €60 to €35 for Georgian citizens, and a maximum wait time of 10 days was established for a decision regarding the visa. However, in general the process of receiving an EU visa has remained rather complicated. Now, further reforms in document security, border control, migration, public order and human rights are required for a final agreement over an eventual visa-free regime. The final visa liberalization rules are expected to be implemented before the upcoming Eastern Partnership Vilnius Summit on November 28-29, 2013.

Yet, there may be economic and social consequences from the EU an eventual visa-free regime. As the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reveals in its country overview for Georgia, development of the country’s migration management system and a lack of economic opportunities at home are two major migration challenges facing Georgia. According to the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB), while only 6% of Georgians would want to permanently live elsewhere, 42% of Georgians would like to temporarily live elsewhere. 

Georgians who are unemployed and looking for a job (59%) are more interested in temporarily going abroad than those who are not interested in a job.

Additionally, students are the more interested in temporary migration than other groups.  87% of students said they would leave Georgia for a certain period of time to live somewhere else if they had a chance. Also, just over half of unemployed and less than half of those who currently have a job, are self-employed or are homemakers would like to temporarily emigrate. 

The results of the CB 2012 also show that younger Georgians are more interested in temporary emigration than those in older age groups. 67% of Georgians aged 18-35 said they would like to live outside Georgia if there was an opportunity, whereas less than half of Georgians 36-55 years old and a one-fifth of those 56 years or older said the same.

A final visa-free agreement could trigger immigration flows from Georgia to EU countries, especially as particular subsets of Georgians (e.g., younger, students, unemployed, and job-seekers) desire to leave the country for a certain period of time. Therefore, migration flows due to unemployment and difficulties while searching for a job might be controlled by promoting job counseling and placement centers, increasing employment prospects within Georgia and creating flexibility to adapt to changing labor market needs. 

To explore more about job and employment related questions in Georgia, we welcome you to download the new 2012 CB dataset here.