Monday, July 27, 2015

Finding work in Armenia and Georgia

With official unemployment rates in 2014 running at 17.6% and 12.4% in Armenia and Georgia respectively, a World Bank analysis in both countries suggests that the labor markets of these countries suffer from a skills shortage. The World Bank’s STEP Skills Measurement Program gathers information on the supply and distribution of people’s skills, and the demand for these skills in low-income countries’ labor markets, interviewing a representative sample of adults aged 15 to 64 living in urban areas. This blog post looks at the World Bank’s STEP data for Armenia and Georgia, which CRRC collected in 2013, to see how people are finding work, their confidence that they have the skills needed to find work, and how they feel their education prepares them for work.

Interestingly, in both countries, a plurality of employed people reported relying on their social networks (friends/relatives/other) to find a job (37% in Armenia and 45% in Georgia). Also reflecting the informal nature of the job market in both countries, the next most common method was to contact the employer directly: 26% in Armenia and 18% in Georgia.

Note: The chart presents only answers of those who reported they had worked in the previous 7 days and shows the percentage of those reporting having used a given method.

Both employed and unemployed were asked whether they thought they possessed various qualities or knowledge that would help them when looking for work. People appear to be very confident in respect to certain skills – for example, 92% of Armenians and 81% of Georgians thought they would perform well in a job interview. However, the share of those who felt they had the necessary work experience was much lower – 60% Armenians and 58% Georgians thought so. In both countries, few believed they had the means to start their own business: 7% in Armenia and 13% in Georgia.

Note: The chart shows only the percentage of those reporting having a given skill or resource.

A very important issue the World Bank reported about for both Armenia and Georgia was the high level of unemployment in these countries despite a (formally) highly educated workforce. Indeed, in both countries, around half of those who have a bachelor’s degree had not worked. The World Bank report for Georgia concludes that the highly educated population does “not have the skills needed in the labor market … many Georgian employers complain that hiring workers with the required skills is difficult.” Similarly, for Armenia, the WB notes that “despite the high availability of labor and these high educational levels, Armenia’s employers are struggling to find the right workers, which seems to point to a problem of skills in the labor force.”

Note: The chart only shows the answers of those that answered ‘No’ to the question “During the past 7 days, did you work for at least an hour for wage or salary in cash or in kind OR work on your own account for profit or family gain OR work in a family business or on a farm?”

Only around half of those who had worked in the week preceding the survey (42% in Armenia and 37% in Georgia) think their formal studies were “very useful” for their job. The rest, however, are not so sure about this.

Note: The chart only shows the answers of those that answered ‘Yes’ to the question “During the past 7 days, did you work for at least an hour for wage or salary in cash or in kind OR work on your own account for profit or family gain OR work in a family business or on a farm?”

Further analysis of the World Bank data could help to uncover whether this is because people’s skills are being underutilized – for example, by having to take jobs that are at a lower skill level than they are qualified for – or if they believe their education does not provide job-relevant skills. Potentially, there could have been other reasons as well.

The full STEP survey datasets for Armenia and Georgia are available from the World Bank website.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The population of Georgia on the ideal number of children per family

Many factors determine the size of families, including economic, cultural and social influences. Not surprisingly, people’s considerations about its “ideal” size do not often match the reality. In this blog post, we shall have a look at whether Georgians’ views about the ideal number of children per family meet the reality, and how these views differ according to people’s sex, age and settlement type, using data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey in 2013.

In response to the question, “What do you think is the ideal number of children per family in Georgia?” there is no statistically significant difference in responses by sex: 47% of women and 45% of men consider three children to be ideal. 

Although the same is true for representatives of all age groups, younger people are more likely to think that smaller family sizes are better. Among the 18-35 age group, 21% say two children is the ideal number, compared to 11% for 36-55 year olds and just 6% in the 56+ age group. On the other hand, twice as many over-55s prefer four children than do 18-35 year olds (34% compared to 16%), and just 4% of both 18-35 year olds and 36-55 year olds think the ideal family has five children, whereas 10% of over-55s do so, with a further 3% thinking six or more children would be best.

Note: Responses “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis throughout this blog post. 

The Caucasus Barometer data also shows that attitudes to family size change based on where people live, with a slight preference for bigger families in rural settlements, while in the capital and other urban settlements more than half of people think three children is ideal. 

There is also a strong preference for two or three children among women aged between 18 and 35 – the main childbearing age group, – of whom 77% think so. 

How do actual family sizes match up to this? Figures from Geostat, Georgia’s national statistics office, show that although the number of first children being born has been decreasing in Georgia since 2009, there is an overall rising number of births, that should be attributed to an increase in the numbers of second and third children per family. For instance, in 2006, the share of families’ first children’s births was 61%, second children’s – 28% and third children’s – 9%. By 2014, when the total number of births was much higher, the share of first children’s births had fallen to just 43% of the total, while second and third children’s births comprised 38% and 14%, respectively – the highest levels in any year covered by this data.

This suggests that family size – and, specifically, the actual number of children per families – is edging towards the levels that Georgians say they consider ideal. 

Do you think we’ll soon have most of the Georgian families having three children? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook page

More data from the Caucasus Barometer surveys is available on our Online Data Analysis site. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

How do Georgians spend their leisure time?

How much free time people have – and how they choose to spend it – is influenced by multiple factors, with some of the most important being work, family and a person’s stage of life (Roberts et al, 2009; Parker, 1975). CRRC-Georgia’s 2011 Media survey, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, allows us to delve into how Georgians spend their leisure time. To find this out, an open question was asked: “Please tell me how you usually spend your free time in your day-to-day life?” The number of answers respondents could provide was not limited. This blog post looks at how answers differ by age, sex, income and settlement type.

The most popular activities named were watching TV (83%) and spending time with friends or family (49%). A small proportion of the population (5%) said they had no free time at all.

For some, but not all, activities, the survey showed clear differences in the responses of representatives of different age groups. For example, 58% of 18-30 year olds mentioned that they spend their free time with their families, compared to 33% of the over-60 group. The situation is reversed when it comes to gardening, however: just 7% of the youngest age group said they gardened in their spare time, whereas 26% of the oldest age groups (46-60 and over-60s) take care of their yard or garden. Stark differences are also seen in the use of the internet and listening to music. Not much difference is apparent, though, when it comes to reading books, hanging out, sleeping and shopping.

Differences can also be seen in how men and women report spending their spare time. The graph below shows leisure time activities with the biggest differences between men and women. Men are more likely than women to say they spend their free time hanging out (28% compared to 5%), sleeping (16% compared to 10%) or exercising (7% compared to 1%), while women are more likely to report reading books (23% versus 14%) and shopping (11% vs 6%).

The data also enables us to see whether there are any differences in the preferred way of spending free time by household income. As might be expected, the share of those who spend time with friends/family, use the internet and read books is higher when the household income is relatively high, while gardening, for example, is more common in cases of households with a lower income. A previous CRRC blog showed that employed people are more likely than the unemployed to participate in activities which involve socializing, meeting new people and helping others. Those, on the other hand, who said they had no household income are more likely to hang out than any other group.

Activities also differ widely between those living in and outside the capital, Tbilisi. When it comes to going to the cinema or theatre, this could be due to the lack of such an opportunity outside the capital, as theatres and cinemas can be less accessible. Internet access is also more common in the capital, helping explain the difference in use of the internet (34% in Tbilisi vs 14% in the rest of the country). People living outside the capital were less likely to read books than those living in Tbilisi, but more likely to watch TV and read newspapers.

This blog post has looked at the Georgian population’s involvement in particular leisure activities, and how this involvement varies by age, sex, income and settlement type. Further analysis could consider whether these demographic characteristics affect activities that people undertake in their free time that are not commonly categorized as leisure – such as helping neighbors, cleaning public space, or volunteering at church.

For more data, have a look at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

How's your internet?

A guest blog post by Dustin Gilbreath and Hans Gutbrod

If you are reading this, maybe your internet isn’t so bad. Maybe it took some time to load this page and while waiting for the page to load, you thought, “It’s bad.” The quality of internet service is a frequent topic of conversation in Tbilisi, where access to the Internet is the highest in Georgia, and satisfaction with the service varies widely. This has motivated a quick online poll – undertaken by Dr. Hans Gutbrod, in March 2015 – on assessments of internet service in Tbilisi. While not a proper random survey, such a poll (conducted with Google Forms) can still be informative, though it will primarily provide the views of people that have time and feel strongly enough to fill out the survey. The questionnaire was distributed on the Megobrebs listserv, newsgroup and via twitter, and was administered in English only. A total of 52 people based in Tbilisi filled out the survey.

What then are the findings?

Thirty four respondents reported experiencing problems with their home internet access, with 16 complaining about regular short interruptions in service; 9 about crawling internet, 10 about outages lasting longer than 5 minutes, and 13 having trouble connecting with multiple devices.

Overall, respondents’ satisfaction with internet service, measured by their willingness to recommend the service to a neighbor, was medium, with a mean of 2.92 points on a five-point scale, with code ‘5’ meaning not willing and code ‘1’ meaning willing to recommend. With all the caveats mentioned above, the numbers seem to suggest that Caucasus Online customers appear to be more satisfied than Silknet subscribers. The latter were slightly over half a point (0.63) less willing to recommend their internet service provider (ISP) to a neighbor willing to pay the same service fee, indicating a lower level of satisfaction. Caucasus Online subscribers also rated the customer service they had received in instances where they encountered a problem 0.74 point higher on average compared with Silknet subscribers.

Note: Respondents’ answers were recorded using five-point scales. For the first question on the chart above, code ‘5’ corresponded to very bad service and code ‘1’ – to very good service. For the second question, code ‘5’ corresponded to the answer ’not willing to recommend the [respective] service to a neighbor’ and code ‘1’ – to the answer ‘willing to recommend the service to the neighbor’.

Interestingly, satisfaction with customer service varies by language used by the respondent to communicate with the company. The 9 respondents who only spoke with their ISP in English rate the service almost a point higher than those who communicated with the ISP in Georgian (19 respondents). The 18 respondents reporting using a combination of languages (Georgian, Russian or English) fall in between the two. Hence, Georgian speakers appear to be the least satisfied with their ISP’s customer service.

ISPs should be wary of the problems. Analysis of the data suggests that those who are less satisfied with their internet service, measured either by satisfaction with customer service or by willingness to recommend the ISP to their neighbors, are also more likely to be considering switching their service provider (Correlation coefficients of r=.47 and r=0.42, respectively). This also indicates that those who experience poor customer service are slightly more likely to leave their service provider compared with those who would not recommend their internet service provider to a neighbor.

The rise of mobile internet provided by cell phone companies in the Caucasus adds yet another angle to the story and is likely to further drive competition in the internet market, which in theory should spur on service improvement. While mobile internet is not a fully substitutable good for land-line services for everyone, it will soon be for many. On the 2013 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey, the activity Georgians most frequently report doing online was social network usage, something which can easily be done on even a very modest model of a smart phone. While CB 2013 indicated that only 12% of Georgian households had internet access on their mobile phone, the share has undoubtedly increased since, and will continue to increase, in line with the global trend in smart phone ownership in recent years and taking into consideration relatively low prices of mobile internet in Georgia.

It is important to remember the above presented provisional impressions from a quick poll that does not claim to be representative of internet users in Tbilisi. It would take a full-scale survey (at the price of a new car) to get representative and comprehensive findings. For now, the key take away message appears to be that customers who experience poor service – both in terms of quality of internet provision and customer service – are more likely to think about switching their provider. While service providers would be wise to improve their customer service, competition stemming from the rise of mobile internet will also likely lead to increasing quality of service as providers compete for subscribers. Improving customer service in Georgian language should be a priority for companies like Silknet and Caucasus Online, as Georgian speaking customers generally rate their service worse than those who receive service in English.

What has your experience with the internet in Tbilisi (and beyond, throughout the Caucasus) been? Join in the conversation on the CRRC-Georgia Facebook page.

The opinions expressed in this blog post reflect those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the organizations which Dustin and Hans work for.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Perceptions of court proceeding transparency

[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 sixth blog post in the series. Click here to see the first, secondthird, fourth, and fifth posts in the series.]

By Mari Mekhrishvili

Transparent courts are essential to ensuring the accountability of the judiciary and to sustaining society’s confidence in the judicial system. The current version of the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts, after important amendments made in 2013, is designed to ensure the transparency of the courts. The courts are now obliged to record court sessions and provide records to all interested parties upon request. In addition, the Public Broadcaster is authorized to record and broadcast court sessions except in cases when sessions are closed either in part or in whole, and to provide records to other media outlets upon request. The law also guarantees that the prosecution, defense, and any person present at the trial can record court sessions. 

To find out to what extent the legislative changes about photo, video and audio recording during the court sessions works in practice, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association surveyed 26 Georgian media outlets. According to the results of this survey, court proceedings are truly transparent in Georgia, as all media requests to receive court session records were granted from the Public Broadcaster when carried out in compliance with law. 

In this context, this blog post looks at Georgian citizens’ perceptions of court transparency in 2014 using CRRC-Georgia’s 2014 Attitudes towards the Judicial System in Georgia survey, funded by East-West Management Institute and the United States Agency for International Development.

Respondents were asked whether, in their opinion, Georgian court proceedings were transparent (a) before and (b) after the milestone 2012 Parliamentary Elections. Only 13% reported that courts were transparent before 2012. This is the period, when only the courts had the authority to record and stenograph court sessions, which could still be banned by the judge’s “reasoned decision”. 34% reported the same for the period after 2012 elections.

Note: The answers to the question, “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the opinion that court proceeding are transparent in Georgia?” were re-coded from a 10-point scale used in the questionnaire into a 3-point scale, where original options 1 through 4 were combined into “Disagree,” options 5 and 6 were combined into “Neither agree nor disagree,” and options 7 through 10 were combined into “Agree.”

Differences in attitudes are evident in different settlement types. Only 7% of Tbilisi residents reported that the courts were transparent before 2012, compared with 13% of urban settlements besides the capital and 17% of rural residents. Perceptions of court proceeding transparency after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections followed a similar pattern with 20% of capital residents, 33% of residents of urban settlements besides the capital, and 44% of rural residents agreeing with the statement that court proceedings were transparent. Rural residents generally appear to believe most in transparency of courts, though, as it is well known, rural residents always report higher levels of trust in institutions.

Hence, people’s perceptions of court transparency in Georgia differ when assessing the situation before and after 2012 Parliamentary Elections, but in both cases the rural and urban populations have very different assessments. 

Take a look at the 2014 Attitudes towards the Judicial System in Georgia survey, here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Perceived happiness and the strength of social ties

[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 fifth blog post in the series. Click here to see the first, secondthird, and fourth posts in the series.]

By Mariam Londaridze

Findings of a 2002 experimental study of University of Illinois students suggests that being a part of a strong social network might not guarantee happiness, but is one of the necessary conditions for being happy. Another study showed that both strong (family and friends) and weak (random acquaintances) social ties can contribute to happiness. This blog post examines how Georgians’ reported level of happiness differs by a number of measures of social ties, using data from the 2014 Volunteering and Civic Participation in Georgia survey funded by USAID and East-West Management Institute. Although this is a slightly oversimplified approach, throughout this blog post we refer to those who report being happy as “happy” people and those reporting being unhappy as “unhappy”.

There is a notable difference of 31% between happy and unhappy people reporting whether they enjoy meeting new people or not, amounting to 80% and 49%, respectively.

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record respondents’ answers to both questions. On the scale for the question “Overall, how happy would you say you are?” code 1 corresponded to the answer “very unhappy”, and code 10 corresponded to the answer “very happy”. For the analysis, the original scale was re-coded into a 3-point one, with original codes 1 through 4 corresponding to “unhappy”, codes 5 and 6 – “neither happy nor unhappy” and codes 7 through 10 – “happy”. The scale measuring answers to the statement “I enjoy meeting new people” was re-coded identically.

Happy people report there are “plenty of people” around them they can rely on when they have problems more often than unhappy people. While 61% of happy Georgians report having such people around, only 29% of unhappy ones report the same. The same tendency is observed when asked, “If you were ill, are there people besides those in your immediate household who would look after you without expecting any compensation?” While 79% of happy people reported “yes”, 60% of unhappy people did the same.

While 51% of unhappy people report that they have “helped their neighbor or a friend with some household chores or childcare” during the past 6 months, 77% of happy people report the same. It might not come as a surprise that 70% of happy people in Georgia report feeling being helpful to many people outside their family, while only 38% of unhappy people report the same.

Even though this post did not use a comprehensive measure of strength of social ties, the findings presented suggest that people who report being happy have stronger social ties compared to those who are unhappy. Hence, the findings we referred to in the beginning of this blog post likely hold true for the population of Georgia.
For more on happiness in the South Caucasus, you can find an earlier blog post on Happiness in Georgia, and have a look at the data using CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.