July 12, 2016

Social Alienation of Syrian-Armenian Immigrants in Armenia: Sociological Analysis

By Shushan Ghahriyan
CRRC-Armenia Yerevan State University Scholarship Holder

The Syrian crisis, started in 2011, forced many Syrian-Armenians to leave Syria and resettle in Armenia. Followed by the challenges brought by war, in Armenia they faced problems that are common for the locals as well. Thus the research is focused on bringing out the manifestations of social alienation among Syrian-Armenians.
To analyze the phenomenon of social alienation among Syrian-Armenian immigrants we will refer to M. Seeman's (1959) approach to social alienation who defines the concept in terms of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement. Later, isolation was divided into social isolation and cultural isolation (Middleton, 1963).

According to our results, powerlessness predominantly refers to inability to control desired outcomes of behavior and it is mainly expressed in socio-political situations. Respondents most often mention that they cannot change anything in Armenia, cannot improve their conditions as mostly everything depends on the Government and changes should come from there. This feeling of powerlessness is connected to the fact that Syrian-Armenians do not yet consider themselves as a part of the Armenian society.  
Social isolation
Powerlessness is closely related to social isolation. According to the interviews we can say that social isolation causes the feeling of powerlessness. When talking about social isolation we need to take into account the place of origin of Syrian-Armenians. In contrary to the ones from Allepo (a large city in Syria), people from Qamishli (a small city with strong community ties), feel more isolated as they cannot restore former ties and relationships as well as the community life they used to have.
Cultural estrangement
Cultural estrangement manifests in value differences. Syrian-Armenians are affected by oriental culture and this has its effects on their outlook. It was also mentioned that Syrian-Armenians are more business-minded than the locals.
Normlessness mainly refers to the ineffectiveness of laws. Usually problems in Armenia are being solved through “mediators”, people who are considered as informal problem solvers. This way of problem solving is very common in the Armenian reality. Thus we can say that this institute of “mediators” is to some extent a social capital in the Armenian society. From this viewpoint normlessness is not as obvious as other dimensions of alienation among Syrian-Armenians because they do not have the relevant social networks through whom it would be possible to solve problems in Armenia. Thus they rely only on formal, legal regulations which do not function properly.
Switching to the next dimension that is meaninglessness we should mention that it is connected with the person's past experience in different aspects and spheres. The notions of meaninglessness can be divided into two parts. The first is that it is meaningful to start a new initiative in Armenia, to have long-time plans, as Armenia is desired and sweet homeland for Syrian-Armenians and they still think that it is worth linking future with it. The second is that everything is uncertain in Armenia and one cannot predict what will happen in the near future. That's why they do not see any meaning in initiating, creating, planning something.
And the last dimension of social alienation is self-estrangement. It mainly refers to the situation when Syrian-Armenians lost something from their self. Most of Syrian-Armenian immigrants cannot realize themselves in Armenia as they do in Syria. When talking about self-estrangement first of all we should mention the loss of prestige and respect they had in Syria. We can state that self-estrangement is more specific to men. As for women, here in Armenia they have more opportunities for self-realization which was difficult in Syria surrounded by Muslims who have their strong rules concerning women.

To sum up, we should mention that these issues if not solved can deepen the feeling of alienation and create obstacles for integration to the society in Armenia.

About YSU Scholarship
Highly appreciating partnership with Yerevan State University and strong commitment to contribute to the excellence of social science research in Armenia, Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia has launched Yerevan State University Scholarship program in 2014. The goal of the program is to encourage young researchers, who make their first steps in social science research. For that purpose, CRRC-Armenia provides single-time financial support to two Master’s students from the departments of Sociology, and Economics and Management to allocate resources for field organization and first-hand high-quality data collection and analysis for their master thesis. 

April 26, 2016

Does education make a difference in attitude towards homosexuality in Armenia?

By Mane Adamyan
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

Theoretically, the aim of the education is not only to provide people with basic knowledge and technical skills in a particular sphere but also to shape their worldview and critical thinking. During their education, individuals are introduced to lifestyles and new ideas, interact with their peers and get acquainted with nonconformity which gradually becomes natural. Prior empirical work (Ohlanderet al., 2005; Lambertet al., 2006; Treas,2002, Loftus,2001) evidenced a positive correlation between education and tolerance towards sexual minorities. However, the case of Armenia is understudied in the literature.
Stemming from the above-mentioned  discussion, this blog post aims at revealing the relationship between education and attitude towards homosexuality in the Republic of Armenia.  

The question below measures the tolerance towards homosexuality:

 “To what extent do you agree with the following statements?”[1]

  1.       Male homosexuality is a perversion.
  2.       Female homosexuality is a perversion.
Since the gender of the respondent may bias the perception of different types of homosexuality (e.g., male respondent may be more tolerant towards female homosexuals than male homosexuals), the above-mentioned question is split into sub-questions to account for that phenomenon.

As depicted in Chart 1, Armenian public has highly negative views towards gays and lesbians. Only 6% of the respondents disagree that male homosexuality is a perversion. Similarly, only 4% of the respondents believe that women should not be “condemned” for their sexual orientation.

Chart 1
Note: The answer options for the statements “Male homosexuality is a perversion” and “Female homosexuality is a perversion” were grouped as follows: “Strongly disagree” and “Somewhat disagree” were grouped into “Disagree” while “Strongly agree” and “Somewhat agree” were grouped into “Agree”. 

Regarding the education profile of the respondents, out of 977 only 333 have higher education, 597 completed secondary education, 40 have only primary education and 7 respondents are students, applicants or pupils. 

Chart 2
Note: The answer options for the question, “Education” were grouped as follows: options “Illiterate”, “Primary education” and “Basic education” were recoded into “Primary education”. Options “Secondary education”, “Vocational education” and “Secondary technical education” were recoded into “Secondary education”.  Options “Incomplete higher education”, “Higher education” and “Postgraduate” were recoded into “Higher education”.

Chart 3 illustrates the results of the cross-tabulation analysis. It shows that 85% of the highly educated individuals who participated in the survey express negative attitude towards female homosexuality. In case of respondents with secondary education this statistics primes to 96%. The attitude towards male homosexuality is similar to that of female homosexuality. In particular, 81% of the respondents with higher education express negative attitude towards male homosexuals. For respondents with secondary education this result increases to 94%.

Chart 3

In sum, we evidence almost no effect of education on positive attitude towards sexual minorities in the Republic of Armenia. The explanation for this phenomenon can be fewfold. First, Armenian society is highly religious. In particular, more than 80% of the respondents accept to be religious according to the Caucasus Barometer (2015)[2]. Second, given the traditional nature of the Armenian society, family is considered as a supreme value, which may undermine the effect of education on respondents’ attitudes towards sexual minorities.

[1] Social Attitudes towards LGBTI people in Armenia”, [2015]. “Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO in Armenia, in cooperation with Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group NGO from Georgia, within the frames of the project “Solidarity Network for LGBTI in Armenia and Georgia” financed by Heinrich Böll Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office, are carrying out a comprehensive study of social attitudes towards LGBTI people, including a survey carried out by CRRC-Armenia. The results of this research will be presented in July, 2016.
[2] Caucasus Barometer is a nationwide household survey with over 6,800 respondents across the South Caucasus. It runs annually in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia based on the same methodological approach and the same survey instrument.

February 24, 2016

Public Awareness on Personal Information Security in Armenia

By Mariam Arakelyan
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

On July 1st, 2015 the RA Law on Protection of Personal Information came into force.  Even though this law replaced the RA Law on Personal data (2002), the notions of “protection of personal information” or “the security of personal information” are relatively new to the Armenian reality.

To understand individuals’ awareness of what kind of personal information they can obtain, of how their personal information can be used as well as of the means of personal information protection, a small scale pilot survey was administered in Yerevan, Shirak and Syunik regions from November 15 to December 10, 2015 upon the request of the Personal Data Protection Agency of the Ministry of Justice[1].

Regarding the sample composition, 279 adult (18+) residents of the Republic of Armenia took part in this survey, among whom 111 are male and 168 are female, at the same time 144 of them live in capital, 74 in urban and 61 in rural areas.

The aim of this blogpost is to provide a brief discussion of the findings of the survey.
According to the results, 61% of respondents don’t know that in line with the RA law on Protection of Personal Information they have a right to get acquainted with, demand and receive the information on them kept by the state and private organizations. 

                               Chart 1
Note: The original question: “Are you aware, that according to the RA law on Protection of Personal Information you have a right to know, demand and receive the information that organizations (state and private) possess about you?

Moreover, 62% of the respondents don’t read how the personal information they provide when signing a contract or agreement can be used.

                               Chart 2
Note: The original question: “Do you get acquainted to the points how information about you can be used by the other side while signing contract or agreement?”
When breaking the data by age, gender and settlement type, one does not observe notable differences (the results of the analysis are available upon request). 

Almost half of the respondents (47%) are not interested whether they are videotaped or not in the public places, at the same time only 16% considers it unacceptable (Chart 3).  Along with these data, approximately the same share of respondents (46%) are not worried that organization can keep their personal information.

                               Chart 3 
Note: The original question: “Are you worried that organizations (state and private) can follow you or publicize your activity in specific area using the cameras located in the public places?”

                              Chart 4
Note: The original question: “Are you worried that organizations (state and private) can possess your personal information. Please, mention reasons of your concern?”

Regarding the online behavior of the individuals, 49 % of the respondents don’t have profiles in any social network (these people predominantly belong to 46-65 age-group). Among those who have profiles 42% keep their profiles open only for friends, 41% for everyone, while 17% only for selected people. 

                                     Chart 5

There are fewer males with no profiles in social networks (29% of those who don’t use social networks) than females (71%). Furthermore, it seems that older individuals are less likely to have social network profiles. In particular, 65% of those who don’t have social network profiles belong to 46-65 age-group.

To conclude there seems to exist high level of illiteracy and indifference regarding personal data protection (at least among our survey respondents). In particular, the majority of the respondents are not aware of their rights on personal data protection or concerned with data security.

[1] Data was used in the Agency’s annual report as a preliminary assessment of the current state of personal data protection. 

See the summarized data in infographics below.

February 15, 2016

Are employed people in South Caucasus satisfied with their jobs?

By Aneta Harutyunyan
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

Employee satisfaction is one of the ultimate goals of any organization as it can enhance the performance of the business as well as decrease employee turnover (Javed, Balouch, Hassan 2014). Employee satisfaction can be affected by a number of socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, occupation, the level of education, as well as by salary/compensation (Clark,Oswald and Warr 1996, Ganzach 2003, Kaiser 2005, Qasim, Cheema and Syed 2012). Utilizing the 2013 wave of Caucasus Barometer survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers, the current blog post aims at examining the relationship between job satisfaction and remuneration in the three republics of the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. For this purpose, the following questions are examined:
  1.  “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?"
     “I am fairly compensated.”
  2. “Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your job?”
Before proceeding with the analysis of the results, it is worth mentioning the small share of employment rate in the three republics. In particular, according to the Caucasus Barometer survey only 25% of the respondents are employed in Armenia (462 respondents out of 1840), 29% in Azerbaijan (582 respondents out of 2004) and 23% in Georgia (491 respondents out of 2137) [1]  (CaucasusBarometer 2013). 

As depicted in Chart 1, among the three countries employed respondents of Azerbaijan comprise majority who agree that they are fairly compensated (61%). In contrast to those in Azerbaijan, the majority of employed people in Armenia and Georgia consider their remuneration as unfair (66% and 51%, respectively). 

                             Chart 1
Note: The original question on fair compensation was recoded. Answer options “Completely agree”, “Somewhat agree” were recoded into “Agree”, and similarly, “Completely disagree”, “Somewhat disagree” options were combined into “Disagree”.

Analyzing the second question, we can again identify noticeable differences in the level of job satisfaction across the three countries. In particular, as shown in Chart 2, while in Azerbaijan the majority of the respondents (73%) are satisfied with their jobs, in Armenia and Georgia the satisfaction drops to 32% and 34%, respectively. In Armenia and Georgia, the majority of the employed respondents (41% and 50%, respectively) are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their jobs. 

                             Chart 2
Note: The original question on the overall level of job satisfaction was recoded. Answer options “Very satisfied”, “Somewhat satisfied” were combined into “Satisfied”, and similarly, “Very dissatisfied”, “Somewhat dissatisfied” were combined into “Dissatisfied”. “Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” was not recoded.  

As a next step, cross-tabulation is implemented to identify a possible relationship between job satisfaction and employee compensation. As Chart 3 illustrates, there seems to be a strong relationship between job satisfaction and employee remuneration in Azerbaijan. Particularly, 87% of those employed respondents, who agreed that they are fairly compensated, are satisfied with their jobs. This relationship drops to 52% and 55% in Armenia and Georgia, respectively.

                             Chart 3
In summary, analyzing the results of two interrelated questions of the 2013 wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey, this blog post revealed a weak relationship between employee compensation and job satisfaction. In particular, out of three countries, we identified that Armenia and Georgia showed the weakest positive relationship (i.e., people who consider to be fairly compensated are satisfied with their jobs) between these two variables.  

[1] Please note that this blog post considers only those who have a job (employee).
It is also noteworthy that the results of Caucasus Barometer 2013 survey vary from those of the International Labor Organization and National Statistics offices of the three countries by reason of difference in formulation of the question. 

Caucasus Barometer 2013 

December 15, 2015

Civic Engagement in Local Governance Survey in Armenia

By Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia 

On December 11, the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia presented the results of the public opinion survey on civic engagement in local governance.

The survey revealed that the public at large was not well informed on local government related issues. Conducted within the framework of the USAID-funded Civic Engagement in Local Governance (CELoG) project, the survey showed that 87 percent of the respondents were not familiar with the decisions made by their local government bodies, and 91 percent did not know the size of their municipal budget. 73 percent of the respondents knew the head of their community, while 48 percent did not know the members of their local council.

In terms of public attitudes towards and knowledge of the Government of Armenia’s community consolidation and decentralization reforms, the survey revealed that 59 percent of the respondents did not know anything about them, and 47 percent expected that the consolidation would negatively impact their community. Only 24 percent believed that the community consolidation reform would have a positive impact.

Regarding municipal services, only 12 percent of the respondents were satisfied, with 47 percent somewhat satisfied and 36 percent not satisfied with the performance of their local governments. The survey also revealed lack of trust towards and low transparency in local government operations, noting that community members often resort to using personal connections, social status, and at times bribery to resolve their issues.

The nation-wide household survey among 1,500 randomly selected adult respondents examined public awareness of Armenia’s local government system, satisfaction of services provided by the local governments, engagement of citizens in community-related decision-making, as well as public attitudes toward the ongoing community consolidation reform. The study served to establish a baseline for these areas, which will be used to measure future knowledge and behavior change achieved through the CELoG project.  

The survey results are a snapshot of the level of awareness of local governance and citizens’ perceptions about their local governments’ efficiency and accountability vis-à-vis their expectations at the outset of the CELoG project. The results are also of interest for policy makers, experts, local government officials, and international donor organizations.

July 8, 2015

Outlining the perceptions of social assistance programs in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

(Data analysis is based on “Caucasus Barometer 2013”)

By Arpy Manusyan,
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, followed by a severe social and economy crisis, various social assistance programs were introduced to address the rapidly growing poverty. Social assistance was meant to protect the vulnerable groups unable to integrate into the society and country’s economic system due to some problems (Falkingham J, Vlachantoni A., 2010Maltseva E., 2012). It became evident that social assistance should not only solve short-term problems, reduce poverty threshold, but also act as groundwork for social state. It should be targeted and flexible in responding to various needs of the vulnerable groups. 

Social assistance has many definitions that may vary depending on the scope and purpose of the study. Generally it can be defined as the range of policies and benefits aimed to guarantee the social and economic rights of people based on need and resources (Lunt N., Coyle D.,1996). There are three major approaches toward social assistance: need-based, merit-based, and need and merit-based social assistance . According to the school of need-based social assistance, response to needs is unconditional and is regarded as a social imperative. Merit-based social assistance promotes the idea that assisting the poor on the basis of need may make them dependent and deepen their poverty. The school of need and merit-based social assistance tries to address the weaknesses of one school by the strengths of the other school of thought (Hiruy M., 2009).

Still the need-based social assistance is the dominant model especially in post-Soviet countries. Aimed at supporting the minimum material needs of vulnerable groups, it is not able to respond flexibly to changing situations. Introduced as urgent measures, some of these policies have managed to reduce the poverty, while some other programs have generated and sustained the syndrome of dependency (The Chronic Poverty Report 2008-2009Hanlon, J etal., 2010European Commission’s report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion in Ukraine, 2009). 

Here I would like to comparatively explore the perceptions of social assistance programs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia based on two interrelated questions that indicate public attitudes towards TSA programs aimed at poor societal layers (“Missing” command is applied to the questions in order to get answers that show levels of agreement):
  1. Do you agree that social assistance should be covering fewer poor families than it does today, and the savings should be used on other public services or lowering taxes? / Do you agree that social assistance should be covering more poor families than it does today, even if this results in having fewer public services or higher taxes.
  2. To what extent do you agree or disagree to extend the number of poor families included in Targeted Social Assistance Program in exchange of requiring some of these actions from recipients? 

Chart 1. Attitude towards number of families covered, CB 2013

According to CB 2013, there is a noticeable difference in answers to this question between respondents from Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as between respondents from Armenia and Georgia (Chart 1).  While 50% of Azerbaijani respondents think that social assistance should cover more poor families, only 28% of Armenian respondents agree with this statement. The difference between perceptions of social assistance programs in Armenia and Georgia is also significant: 49% of Georgian respondents acknowledge that the state should assist more poor families with social programs. 

Chart 2. Attitude towards extension of  the number of poor families covered, CB 2013

According to Chart 2, while 73% of Georgian respondents agree that social assistance in the country should be given to a larger share of the poor (in exchange, recipients are required do certain actions like searching for work, etc.), 45% of Armenian respondents and 62% of Azerbaijani respondents agree with the statement. In general, the most positive attitude toward expanding social assistance programs for a larger number of poor people has Georgian public. 

Public spending on social protection programs in the Southern Caucasus is exceptionally low (“Social Protection and Social Inclusion in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia”). The social protection and social assistance policies during the last 24 years mainly aimed to ensure basic protection against poverty; however various studies show that they are not efficient for fighting the progressively growing inequality after the collapse of Soviet-Union (SlayB., 2009).

June 8, 2015

“Policy Challenges for Armenia in the Context of Regional and Global Economic Shocks”: Public Lecture

By Esther Bartl, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

Esther Bartl
On Tuesday, June 02, 2015, the Caucasus Research Resource Center – Armenia invited Teresa Daban Sanchez, IMF resident representative to Armenia, to deliver a presentation on the economic and political implications of regional and global economic shocks for Armenia. To make the dimension of economic shocks - unexpected and large changes within an economy, despite occurring outside of it - for countries understandable to the audience, Ms. Sanchez focused on the global, regional and national level in her speech. 

The drop of global oil prices by almost 50 percent marked the starting point of a severe economic turmoil in many countries throughout the world.  The reduction of oil prices has impacted consumers globally, as the price of a great number of commodities such as food and metals have also declined subsequently.  Consequently, due to the drop of oil prices, the global economy has been below its potential.  As the price of oil has been extremely volatile in recent years, Ms. Sanchez underlined the difficulty to predict its evolvement in the future.

The steep and unpredicted reduction of global oil prices has had a severe impact on the economies of the Caucasus and the Central Asian region. The economies of the oil exporting countries of the region, i.e. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, being highly dependent on revenues from their oil production, have faced strong negative effects.  Also in the oil importing economies of the region, i.e. Georgia, Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, lower oil prices resulted in reduced gains.   The high economic dependence on Russia’s real economy and its oil prices had especially indirect effects on the oil importing economies through so-called transmission channels. Ms. Sanchez showed a number of such transmission channels that link the Russian economy with the respective economies in the Caucasus and Central Asia such as strong banking system linkages between Russia and the region, remittances from and exports to Russia and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  

Teresa Sanches & Anna Sarkisyan, CRRC-Armenia

Armenia’s oil importing economy has stayed below its potential in 2014 due to its close ties to Russia’s troubled economy. The strong presence of Russian banks in Armenia constitutes a channel through which Russia’s economic crisis can negatively impact the financial system of the Caucasian country.  Moreover, remittances from Russia, which have constituted 15 percent of Armenia’s GDP, and exports to Russia, three percent of the country’s GDP in recent years, have been reduced due to current problems of the Russian economy.  At the same time, nonperforming loans have increased for Armenia from 2013 to 2014. Although banks in Armenia still hold 15 % capital, which could mitigate the economic turmoil so far, high interest rates have hindered economic stimulation.

Towards the end of her speech, Ms. Sanchez presented approaches to support those economies that have been hit due to the drop of global oil prices. Macroeconomic stability needs to be maintained, combined with structural reforms that should raise potential growth in the economies. In the case of Armenia, short-term policies should maintain economic and financial stability and boost economic growth.  In the medium-term, exchange rate flexibility and structural reforms will be of upmost importance to bring the Armenian economy closer again to its actual economic potential.