Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CRRC’s third annual Methodological Conference: Transformations in the South Caucasus and its Neighbourhood

The third annual CRRC methodological conference took place on June 26 and 27 at Rooms Hotel, Tbilisi. With over 50 participants and a packed program of presentations, workshops, and speeches the conference drew together policy practitioners and researchers from the South Caucasus and beyond.

Rory Fitzgerald, Director of the European Social Survey and Senior Research Fellow at City University London, delivered an engaging workshop on the challenges of cross-national surveys using the example of the European Social Survey (ESS).

Mihaylo Milovanovitch, Network Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, gave a memorable presentation on a method for measuring ethics in the Armenian education system. The research linked corruption with educational outcomes in Armenia.

Alexi Gugushvili, an Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN) Research Fellow in South Caucasus Studies at the Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre of the St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, delivered the final keynote speech, Money Can’t Buy Me Love: Foreign Land Ownership Regime and Attitudes in Georgia.  In the speech, Alexi argued that the land ownership debates of recent years in Georgia arise from “the confluence of factors such as the communist legacy, historical memory, rural nationalism, agricultural underdevelopment and inequality”.

For more information, the full program and some of the papers presented at the conference can be accessed here.

Who trusts the police in Georgia?

By Tamar Gzirishvili

[Note:  Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the fourth blog post in the series. Click here to see the first, second, and third posts in the series.]

The 2004 police reform in Georgia was regarded as a successful transformation of one of the most corrupt institutions in the country into a functional entity. The reform included the mass dismissal of police officers, rebranding of units with new equipment and a new image, and increasing the salaries of police officers in order to decrease the incentive to solicit or accept bribes. Largely as a result of this reform, as Alexander Kupatadze claimed in 2012, “Georgia has been portrayed as the ‘safest place in Europe’ with low victimization and low crime rates,” and as crime rates went down, the police earned increased public trust. However, a recent study on the effectiveness of the Ministry of Interior by several Georgian NGOs including Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, and Georgian Democracy Initiative among others highlights a number of violations by the patrol police during searches of people on the streets in 2013. A joint statement by leading Georgian NGOs published in August 2013 identified some of these violations.

The statistics released by the Georgian Ministry of Interior show that the number of registered crimes decreased by 17% from 2013 to 2014, while the number of solved cases increased from 58% to 63% in the same period. However, doubts on the reliability of this data, as well as on the legitimacy of police raids and random searches persist. A public opinion poll conducted by ACT in 2013 shows that 34% of Georgians believe that the crime rate increased in Georgia over the last year, while 18% think it decreased. Considering this quite unstable situation, it is important to understand how levels of trust in the police have changed over time and who trusts the police. Looking at CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey data for the period between 2008 and 2013, this blog post examines the Georgian population’s reported trust in the police by settlement type and education.

During this period, different levels of (dis)trust in police have been recorded, with distrust gradually decreasing and trust fluctuating. The highest level of trust (67%) was recorded in 2011. It decreased to 50% in 2012, but increased to 58% in 2013. The share of those reporting “neither trusting nor distrusting” the police has increased from 19% in 2008 to 30% in 2013, with fluctuations in between.

Note: The original 5-point scale used for this question was re-coded during the analysis into a 3-point scale. Answer options “Fully distrust” and “Somewhat distrust” were combined into the category “Distrust,” and “Somewhat trust” and “Fully trust” into “Trust.” “Neither trust nor distrust” was not re-coded. 

Who trusts the police in Georgia? Interestingly, no differences are observed in trust in the police by age or gender. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer data shows that residents of rural settlements express trust in the police more frequently than those living in urban settlements and in the capital (67%, 52% and 49%, respectively). Consequently, distrust is higher in the capital and other urban settlements (11% in both cases) compared to rural ones (5%). It should be noted, however, that a similar trend can be observed in the reported trust towards any other social institution, with the rural population, overall, reporting higher levels of trust.

There are very small differences in levels of trust in the police by education. Those with secondary or lower education tend to trust police slightly more compared to those with secondary technical or higher education (61%, 56% and 55%, respectively).

Note: The variable measuring education level was re-coded, so that answer options “No primary education”, “Primary education (either complete or incomplete)”, “Incomplete secondary education” and “Completed secondary education” were combined into the category “Secondary or lower.” Answer options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education”, and “Post-graduate degree” were combined into the category “Higher than secondary education”. “Secondary technical education” was not re-coded.

Overall, the data shows that the share of those who report “neither trusting, nor distrusting” police has increased over the years in Georgia, while the share of those who distrust the police decreased. People living in rural settlements tend to report trusting police more than people living in other settlement types. There are very small differences by level of education and no differences by age or gender.

To explore issues related to trust in social and political institutions, take a look at the Caucasus Barometer data using CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Finding divorce hard to justify

By Maya Komakhidze

[Note:  Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the third blog post in the series. Click here to see the first and second blog posts in the series.]

A study carried out by the UNDP in 2013 shows that traditional views of gender roles persist in Georgia – women primarily view themselves as housewives, spouses and mothers. Unsurprisingly, in the focus group discussions conducted within the framework of the National Research on Domestic Violence project, respondents associated divorce with “disaster,” “the end of the world” and the shame of a woman returning to her parents’ home after divorce. Female focus group participants stated that a woman should not think of divorce unless violence against her becomes intolerable. In contrast to these attitudes, the official number of divorces has increased in Georgia between 2006 and 2014. This blog post explores Georgians’ views on divorce using data from the CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey. As previous studies highlighted the changing values of young respondents who “no longer blindly follow traditions” and “do not tolerate from their husbands what their grandmothers and mothers put up with,” the blog post briefly discusses the attitudes of younger Georgians as well.

Slightly over half of the Georgian population reports that divorce is not justified, and this attitude did not markedly change between 2011 and 2013. Nationwide, differences by age groups are within the confidence interval. Differences by gender are also within the confidence interval. Differences by settlement type, on the other hand – namely, differences in the opinions of the population of the capital and the rest of the country – are obvious. The population of the capital demonstrates markedly higher acceptance of divorce compared with those living in other urban and rural settlements.

Note: Answer options to the question, “To what extent can getting a divorce be justified or not?” were re-coded for this and the following chart from a 10-point scale into a 3-point scale, with original options 1 through 4 corresponding to the option “cannot be justified,” 5 and 6 “sometimes justified,” and 7 through 10 “can be justified.”

The chart below shows the answers of the residents of different settlement types broken down by age group. Residents of the capital in all age groups differ in their views from the residents of other urban and rural settlements. In addition, the difference of opinion between younger and older generations is more pronounced in the capital, but less so in other settlements. This suggests that acceptance of divorce in Georgia is more closely related to where a person lives, rather than what generation a person belongs to, although age does appear to be an important factor.

Overall, disapproval of divorce remains strong in Georgia, and more than half the population thinks it cannot be justified. The views of people residing in the capital diverge markedly from the views of rural and urban residents, the most tolerant group being young residents of the capital. Still, despite the younger respondents of  the previous studies, who “no longer blindly follow traditions,” this seems to be the case predominantly in the capital, since young people outside Tbilisi generally do not approve of divorce.

For more information on the Caucasus Barometer data, take a look at the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Georgia’s e-government – who is it for?

By Davit Mzikyan

[Note:  Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the second blog post in the series. Click here to see the first blog post.]

In the late 1990’s together with the boom in digital and information technologies, the concept of e-government first began to take shape. Since then, e-government has spread throughout the world. In 2007, e-government was launched in Georgia with the creation of the government commission supporting e-governance development, and in 2010, the Data Exchange Agency (DEA) was created under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. One core function of the DEA is to assist in the development of e-governance. Since, the state has implemented a significant number of e-government projects including my.gov.ge, hr.gov.ge, eauction.ge, rs.ge. Looking to international rankings, progress is visible. According to the UN’s E-government development index, Georgia rose from 72nd place in 2012 to 56th in 2014.

E-government in Georgia will, of course, continue to develop, but, at the same time, it should be useful and efficient – to a certain extent, herein lays a problem. While the government develops and improves its digital services and communications through information and communications technology, a large share of the population – potential e-citizens – lacks knowledge of how to use computers, as well as knowledge of how to use the internet. Survey data from the 2013 Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows that roughly half of the county’s population (52%) has no basic knowledge of how to use a computer. This means that in all likelihood, these people are unable to use e-government services, or other means of communication with governmental bodies via the internet. In many ways, e-government without more or less advanced computer users is like a government without a population – its existence is pointless unless there are people who will benefit from its services. This blog post looks at the potential and perspectives of e-governance in Georgia considering self-assessed level of knowledge of computers by age and settlement type.

Stemming from the common belief that young people are good with technology, while the older generation has trouble using it, one might think that older people are the only group in society which has no basic knowledge of computers. While CB data confirms this impression to a certain extent, as 86% of those 56 and older report little to no knowledge of computers, it also shows that 24% of 18-35 year olds report having no basic knowledge of how to use a computer. Although the majority of 18-35 year olds (76%) reports knowledge of the computer, 14% of them report only a beginner’s level of knowledge. Still, young people are likely most capable of using e-government services, compared with older populations.

Note: The question about computer knowledge asked about the level of knowledge of computer programs, excluding games. Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis throughout this blog post.

In addition to age, knowledge of computers differs by settlement type as well. CB 2013 shows that almost half (46%) of the population of urban settlements outside the capital and 67% of the rural population do not know how to use a computer, compared to 31% of capital residents. Distribution of internet access also falls along these lines. According to the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information’s Statistics of Internet Users in Georgia – 2013 of 434,969 wired internet subscriptions in 2013, 273,396 were in Tbilisi. Imereti region comes in second with only 42,198 subscriptions. According to GeoStat, the population of Tbilisi in 2013 was 1,171,200 while the population of Imereti was 703,900. Therefore, Tbilisi had approximately 233 wired internet subscriptions per 1000 inhabitants, compared with only 60 in Imereti. Hence, in order to improve access to e-governance, the greatest amount of work will be spreading knowledge and access to technology in the populations of villages and urban settlements outside the capital. This is particularly important as residents of the capital can much more easily communicate with governmental bodies or receive services by visiting ministries or agencies, but for citizens living outside the capital there are fewer alternatives.

Nevertheless, in every settlement type, 18-35 year olds report more advanced knowledge of computers than those over 36 years old. In the capital, only 11% of young people report no knowledge of computers compared with 13% of youth residing in urban settlements outside the capital and 43% in rural settlements. Still, in all settlement types, knowledge of computers decreases with age.

This blog post has looked at e-government in Georgia in light of reported knowledge of computers. Despite the fact that the older generation generally knows less about computers and therefore has less access to the services that e-government provides, the young generation often has enough knowledge of computers to use its services. Considering that this young generation will replace the older one, it appears that in the future, with increasing knowledge of computers, e-government will be more widely used in Georgia. Nevertheless, compared to the capital, knowledge is lacking in other urban settlements and, especially, in rural settlements.

For more information, take a look at our earlier blog post on e-transparency in Georgia, or look through our data using the Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Connections or education? On the most important factors for getting a good job in Georgia

By Nino Zubashvili

[Note: Over the next two weeks, Social Science in the Caucasus will publish the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the first blog post in the series.]

What is believed to be the most important factor for getting a good job in a country where unemployment is widely considered to be one of the biggest issues? CRRC’s 2013 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey results show that connections (30%) and education (28%) are the most frequent answers to this question in Georgia. This finding is in line with studies on social capital in various countries, arguing that social ties provide people with better labor market opportunities (Lin, 1999; Mouw, 2003;  McDonald and Elder, 2006), as well as with studies on the role of education in the job market, finding that education is an important resource worth investing in as it provides individuals with access to employment and better chances at  obtaining well-paid jobs (Kilcullen, 1972;Smith and McCoy, 2009). Analyzing both the social ties and perceptions about what is reported as the most important factor for getting a good job, an earlier CRRC blog post, Finding a good job in Georgia, argued that Georgians without connections might be more likely to think that connections are the most important factor for getting a good job. This blog post, on the other hand, looks at how the answers about the most important factors for getting a good job differ by level of education and by employment status, with the aim of finding out who is more likely to think that education matters the most for getting a good job in Georgia.

CB 2013 data shows there is almost no difference in answers to this question between people having different levels of education. The only notable difference can be observed in relation to the perceived importance of professional abilities/work experience. While 17% of those with post-secondary education think this is the most important factor for getting a good job, 8% of those with secondary or lower education report the same.

Note: The answer options for the question, “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?”  were grouped as follows: options “No primary education”, “Primary education (either complete or incomplete)”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were grouped into “Secondary or lower”. Options “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were grouped into “Higher than Secondary”. For the question, “What is the most important factor for getting a good job in Georgia?” infrequently named answer options – “Age”, “Appearance”, “Talent”, “Doing favors for the ‘right’ people”, and “Other” – were grouped into “Other”.

While there are few differences in perceptions about important factor(s) for getting a good job by education, such differences can be seen by employment status, and specifically between those who describe themselves as self-employed, employed and unemployed. Namely, 34% of the employed think education is the most important factor for getting a good job compared to 25% of the group who report connections. In contrast, the self-employed report that education (20%) is the most important factor for getting a good job less frequently than they report connections (33%). Those who consider themselves to be unemployed also name connections (40%) most frequently.

Note: To the question, “Which of the following best describes your situation?”, the following answer options – “Student and not working”, “Disabled”, “Other”, “Refuse to answer”, and “Don’t know” – were combined into “Other”.

This blog post has shown that while opinions about the most important factors for getting a good job in Georgia do not differ by education level, opinions do vary by employment situation. Those who describe themselves as employed more commonly think that education is the most important factor for getting a good job, while the self-employed and the unemployed most often name connections.

To learn more about CRRC surveys, visit our Online Data Analysis tool.

Junior Fellows at CRRC-Georgia: Facing new challenges

[Note: Over the next two weeks, Social Science in the Caucasus will publish the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015.]

CRRC’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) was launched in 2009 as a Carnegie Corporation initiative within the CRRC, with the goal of providing on-the-job training opportunities in applied research for young social scientists. As the Program’s motto claims, the JFP would be “the best and hardest” experience the Junior Fellows would ever have, opening doors for educational and employment opportunities worldwide. Every year since, a new group of bright young people interested in social science research and selected through a highly competitive and challenging selection process would join CRRC-Georgia for a period of five to nine months.

Once becoming members of the CRRC-Georgia team, Junior Fellows are engaged in ongoing research projects at various stages of implementation both through direct participation and observation. Fellows learn about questionnaire development, pretest, sampling, survey fieldwork and back-checks, data management and analysis, slide production and presentation of results, report writing, the development of discussion guides, and preparation of interview and focus-group write-ups. We believe, Georgian higher educational institutions currently fail to help students acquire most of these skills, and hence the opportunity offered by CRRC-Georgia is quite unique for the Junior Fellows.

Potential junior fellows are expected to have already completed at least a BA degree, although it is not required that this degree is in the social sciences. They have to commit to the program full-time, and hence cannot combine JFP and another job or full-time studies during the fellowship period. In addition to valuable research experience, the Junior Fellows are provided with a number of training sessions on quantitative data analysis using SPSS and Stata statistical software, qualitative data analysis using NVivo software, and report writing.

Thirty two young people have been CRRC-Georgia Junior Fellows to date. After their fellowship period, seven stayed on to work at CRRC-Georgia, five continued their education abroad, and others started jobs at a number of different international and governmental organizations.

We asked some of the former fellows to share their opinions about what the JFP experience gave them, and how it relates to their current educational and employment situations. Here are some answers:

[At CRRC-Georgia] I got a valuable knowledge of how high-quality research should be conducted. While working with qualified people, I obtained knowledge and experience that helped me to advance in my future career. A great team, interesting projects and a great deal of perspectives – this is how I would describe my experience working at CRRC.
Nino Kerkadze, JFP-2012

CRRC is a small family, where one acquires new skills that will be useful [for the rest of your life].
Merab Bochoidze, JFP-2011

CRRC is a place with a wonderful working environment, qualified colleagues and great friends that will give a valuable boost to your career.
Salome Minesashvili, JFP-2011

CRRC-Georgia is currently hosting six junior fellows, and we believe, one of the most exciting, although challenging tasks for the current Junior Fellows is writing blog posts for the CRRC regional blog, Social Science in the Caucasus. In their blog posts, the Junior Fellows can focus on social science issues they are most interested in, apply their data analysis skills, and communicate their findings to an audience of international and local scholars, researchers, and journalists.

For the first time, we have decided to publish the 2015 Junior Fellows’ first blog posts in a single series. The JFP series will start today with Nino Zubashvili’s post and continue for two weeks.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trust in institutions in the South Caucasus – generating a combined score

Trust in institutions is a widely studied subject in the social sciences – typing 'trust in institutions' into Google Scholar yields roughly 2.5 million results. It is generally believed to have multi-directional relationships with different aspects of social life, with high levels of trust associated with positive phenomena – acceptance of innovation and a good business environment just to name two. While the Social Science in the Caucasus blog has often looked at trust in social and political institutions in each country with a focus on the peculiarities of each country or a particular institution, to date there has not been a description of the overall level of trust in these institutions in each South Caucasus country by major demographic characteristics, such as gender, age or settlement type. This blog post fills the gap by looking at the average level of trust in institutions using 2013 Caucasus Barometer data.

To measure the average level of trust in social and political institutions, a trust in institutions scale was generated for this blog post. The scale was created by adding together responses for the 15 trust in institutions questions asked on the Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey: the health care system, banks, the educational system, the army, the court system, NGOs, parliament, executive government, the president, the police, political parties, media, local government, the religious institution the respondent belongs to, the ombudsman. Respondents in all three South Caucasus countries were asked “Please assess your level of trust toward each [institution] on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust’.” The original scale was re-coded for this blog post in the following way: codes 1 and 2 (fully distrust and distrust) re-coded as -1; code 3, corresponding to answer “neither trust nor distrust,” re-coded as 0; and codes 4 and 5 (trust and fully trust) re-coded as 1. Scores for each of the 15 institutions were added together in order to generate a trust in institutions scale with -15 on this scale corresponding to distrust to every institution asked about, and 15 corresponding to trust in each of the 15 institutions. By taking the average score in each country, we are provided with a picture of how much South Caucasians trust their countries's major social and political institutions in general, rather than the individual institutions which were asked about.

Without further ado, the results demonstrate that, overall, Armenia is the least institution trusting country in the South Caucasus – by a wide margin. Armenia’s average score is -1.4, while Azerbaijan and Georgia score 3.2 and 3.3, respectively.

Notably, women are slightly more trusting than men in each country. Trust also varies by settlement type and a clear pattern emerges when looking at Armenia and Georgia – trust in institutions is highest in rural settlements followed by urban settlements and the capital. Even in institution distrusting Armenia, the rural population comes in with an almost positive trust score of -0.1. In Azerbaijan, rural settlements still exhibit the highest levels of trust in institutions, but in Baku there is a slightly higher level of trust than in other urban settlements.

No clear cross-country pattern can be observed as regards trust in institutions by age, but each country does have its own distinctive pattern in this respect. In Armenia, the youngest age group is most trusting of institutions – a possible sign of optimism among the youth. Trust decreases with age in Armenia. In Azerbaijan, trust in institutions is slightly lower in the younger age groups and highest in the oldest one.  In Georgia, the youngest and oldest age groups report more or less similar levels of trust (3.2 and 3.0 average scores respectively), with the middle age group (36-55 year olds) reporting trusting institutions most.

In the three South Caucasus countries, the overall trust in social and political institutions is lowest in Armenia. In each country, women express slightly more trust than men, and rural residents report the highest trust. In Azerbaijan, the elderly have the most trust in institutions and in Armenia the least.

To explore the data on trust in institutions more, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

How does press freedom in Georgia compare to Eastern Europe?

Georgia’s media was once again ranked the most free in Eurasia in Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom of the Press report, released on April 28, 2015. On Freedom House’s scale, in which countries receive a score from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free), Georgia’s rating of 48 places it firmly in the ‘partly free’ category. Amid an overall worsening picture for press freedom in Eurasia – and worldwide – Georgia showed one of the biggest improvements in the world, with press freedom advancing by 7 points over the previous five years. Reasons for the recent improvements include the 2013 passage of the so-called “must carry” legislation, reduced political influence over broadcast media and increased media competition.

Georgia is currently ranked 93rd in the world in the Freedom House report, on par with Lesotho, Senegal and Tunisia, and above EU member state Greece, which received a score of 51. Since the country’s independence, Georgians have aspired to closer ties with the European Union, so it is important to ask how press freedom in Georgia compares with recent EU member states such as Romania, Hungary and Poland. This blog post tries to answer this question based on the Freedom House data.

Despite the noted improvements, Georgia has always – and continues to – fare worse than most countries in Europe. For instance, Freedom House has classed Poland’s press as free (score 30 or below) every year since 1991, despite a gradual decline since 2003. In contrast, Romania’s media has been considered ‘partly free’ every year since 1994, with greater variation over the 20-year period compared to Poland. Hungary, which was roughly level with Poland between 2004 and 2010, has seen press freedom sharply decline over the past five years, with Freedom House noting it has “suffered from increased state regulation and other interference since 2010.” Still, Freedom House rates all three countries as having a freer press than Georgia.

Hungary provides a good example that even stable democracies can regress, so vigilance is even more necessary in hybrid regimes such as Georgia, which are neither wholly democratic nor wholly authoritarian. Georgia has consistently been considered as such by major democracy indexes, including Freedom House. Indeed, Georgia’s press freedom scores in 2014 and 2015 only bring it back to the level it first reached in 2000, after sharp improvements during the 1990s were followed by a decade of a more restrictive media environment.

Since 2002, Freedom House has looked at three categories when rating press freedom – the legal, political, and economic environments. The scores from each category are summed to produce the final rating. Looking at data from Georgia since this system was first used shows that the biggest factor contributing to the improvement of Georgia’s score has been the political environment in the country. This factor monitors the extent of political control over the content of news media, taking into consideration editorial independence, media diversity and vibrancy, access to information and sources, censorship, and harassment and intimidation of journalists.

The legal environment contributing to press freedom – such as constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary – has slowly worsened since 2002, with slight improvements between 2008 and 2012.

To what extent do indexes such as Freedom House’s reflect how Georgians themselves perceive their media? Data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey between 2008 and 2013, which asked respondents to assess their level of trust toward the media, show that distrust in the media has remained relatively stable since 2008, ranging between 16% in 2008 and 12% in 2013, all changes being within the margin of error. However, there has been a dramatic decrease in the share of Georgians who state that they fully trust the media – down from 50% in 2008 to 24% in 2013. At the same time, the share of those answering “neither trust nor distrust” the media has almost doubled during the same period. This suggests that public trust in the media is driven in Georgia by other factors than those considered by Freedom House’s index.

Public opinion data suggests that substantial problems remain in the media environment in Georgia. While Georgia’s Freedom House rating is edging closer to other transition countries that are EU member states, such as Hungary and Romania, it is not solely because the situation in Georgia is improving, but because the situation in much of Europe is deteriorating. Notably, Freedom House’s changing press freedom scores do not match up with population’s reported trust in the media in Georgia, which suggests that it may be a good idea for organizations like Freedom House to adjust its scoring methodology.

What do you think could be at the root of this divergence? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page and take a look at this Caucasus Analytical Digest article on political country rankings in the South Caucasus.

Monday, June 01, 2015

What do children and young people in Georgia need to be well and happy?

Georgia ranks 134th out of 156 countries in the United Nations World Happiness Report 2013. The list is topped by some of the Northern and Central European countries – Denmark, Norway and Switzerland – whereas central African states such as Togo, Benin and Central African Republic appear in the bottom positions. Interestingly, all of Georgia’s neighbors score higher than Georgia, with Russia in 68th, Turkey in 77th, Azerbaijan in 116th, and Armenia in 128th place. This ranking takes into account GDP per capita, life expectancy, perceptions of corruption, freedom to make life choices, etc., but what do people and particularly children and young people, think they need for happiness and well-being? This blog post provides some insight into the subject based on a preliminary qualitative study on perceptions of children and young people on well-being conducted in Tbilisi by CRRC-Georgia for the MYWEB project. Twenty in-depth interviews and four focus groups were conducted in November of 2014. 

Taking into consideration their age (11-19 years old), the groups of children and young people who took part in the research largely fit into the ego identity and role confusion category of adolescence identified by prominent psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1950, 1963). This period is important as children start becoming more independent and thinking about their future careers, relationships, families, and society. At this stage of development, children have to learn the roles they will occupy as adults, and it is interesting to see what the views of youth at this crucial stage of development are on well-being and happiness.

Happiness, well-being and life satisfaction are often discussed together in studies trying to measure human happiness. Unsurprisingly, respondents in the MYWEB study often used well-being and happiness as concepts which complemented each other. Young people identified parents/family, health, financial stability, success and freedom as major components needed for happiness and well-being.

Parents were noted as an important part of well-being and happiness for children of all ages in the study. However, while at 11 one needs to have parents around to feel well and happy, at 18, happiness is related to one’s independence from parents. 

My parents are the most important people for me. They are the ones who bring me up and take care of me [Interview_Girl_12]. 
[Happiness is] doing what you want without your mother and father [Interview_Girl_17].

Even though teenagers crave independence, their parents’ opinions remain highly valued to them. 

While at the onset of the ego identity and role confusion category, children indicate that closeness to and the health of their parents and family are central parts of happiness and well-being, as the years go by, more abstract and value-based concepts appear. 15-16 year old respondents were especially inclined to mention freedom as a major component of well-being and happiness. For example, a 15 year old girl stated, “I think everyone [young people] wants the same – to be free, to be themselves.” A few of them stressed the importance of freedom in general, while others thought of freedom as the ability to do what you want, to say what you want and to choose what you want starting from minor everyday things to choosing a career. In the later years of the ego identity and role confusion category, a set of rights and responsibilities emerges and becomes important for well-being and happiness including the right to vote, drive, have a bank account, and buy cigarettes and alcohol. 

I turned 18, and I gained some rights. I am getting a driver’s license, for example. I opened a bank account, not to mention alcohol and cigarettes [Focus-group_Boy_18].

Importantly, young people in their late teens are also thinking about responsibilities, which vary from study workload to taking more of a lead in their own lives and thinking more about how to live in practical terms.

Even though children and young people sometimes differ in their perceptions of what the most important components of happiness and well-being are when asked about the present, their views are largely similar when asked what will matter for their happiness and well-being as they grow to their parents’ age. All study participants saw themselves having families and children of their own, having jobs/careers and being healthy.

For more on the MYWEB project, see the project website here.