May 26, 2017

Employment and poverty in rural areas of Armenia: Machine learning driven analysis

By Erik Hambardzumyan
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow


The aim of this blog post is to give insights with regard to employment dynamics in Armenia. Most of the analysis is based on Caucasus Barometer 2015 survey data, World Bank data and official employment statistics report of National Statistical Service of Armenia (NSS). The analysis consists of two parts: the first one is the descriptive analysis of the employment sectors dynamics; the second part is machine learning techniques analysis[1].

Descriptive analysis of the employment sectors dynamics 


To get an overview of overall employment dynamics, it would be worth examining the employment sectors for the three strata: rural, urban and capital using Caucasus Barometer 2015 data. As the figure 1 shows, the majority in the rural areas is engaged in agriculture. As for the capital, most of the people are engaged in trade, repair of vehicles or goods, while in urban areas the majority is in the education. Agriculture appears to be the major source of employment in rural areas. Given the fact that rural population comprises 37.3% of the population[2] it is worth examining the agriculture sector dynamics using productivity as the key metric. One way to compute the productivity in the context of the problem is to measure the value-added generated by a person engaged in the sector. 

Figure 1

The value-added of agriculture sector was 19,326% in 2015[3] (% of 10.529 billions USD of GDP[4] and average annual employment of 379000[5] in agriculture sector). Thus, the productivity indicator would be:

As for services, value-added (as % of GDP) was 51.892%[6], given 523000 people are involved in the sector.
As we can see service sector is almost twice as productive as agriculture sector.

The machine learning part

It is crucial to define the ‘High’ and ‘Low’ incomes in the context of the problem; the income over 400 USD per capita is defined as ‘High’ income and under 400 USD per capita - ‘Low’ income. Furthermore, the prior examinations of the dataset led to the following a priori decision rules with regard to person’s income. If a person has an advanced computer knowledge, is male and if he works in the banking sector as a manager, he will have high probability of being in ‘High’ income class. As for the ‘Low’ income, if one has no basic computer knowledge, is female and works in education sector having elementary occupation he has high probability to be in the ‘Low’ income class.
Figure 2

The figure 2 reveals the distribution of respondents’ income engaged in agriculture, hunting, forestry. It shows that the majority (89% of all engaged) are low income class people.

Having this in mind let us compare with the evidence gained by the decision tree algorithm (figure 3). Note that if one’s employment sector (WORKSEC) is not mining/quarrying, electricity, gas, water supply etc. than it is agriculture, hunting, forestry, manufacturing, education, and healthcare. It is essential to consider that model’s predictive accuracy is 78% which means out of 100 instances it correctly predicts 78 of them.
Figure 3

If respondent’s work sector is not mining/quarrying, electricity, gas, water supply etc. we turn to the left and get the 86% probability of that person being the part of low income class; in the same fashion if that person belongs to either mining and quarrying, financial intermediation/banking, mass media work sectors then the probability of that person being in the ‘High’ class is 28%. Hence, the highest probability of one being in the ‘High’ income class (100%-55%=45%) is when the person belongs to either mining/quarrying, financial intermediation/banking, mass media work sectors or when his or her employment duration starts earlier than 2012. Most of the abstract rules that the model is suggesting, are quite intuitive and close to our prior determinations. The model hints that the driving factor of one’s income in Armenia is employment. 

Conclusion 



Based on the findings most of the people in the rural areas are involved in agriculture which is a very low productivity sector; almost twice less productive than services sector. According to the decision tree model people employed in agriculture, hunting, forestry, manufacturing, education, and healthcare are poor. Moreover, 86 out of 100 people of either sector can be identified as low income people.






[1] The workings have been fully done using R statistical software; the full information about the workings (figures, decision trees) with code can be found here
[2] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS?locations=AM

[3] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.AGR.TOTL.ZS?locations=AM

[4] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=AM 

[5] http://www.armstat.am/file/article/9.trud_2016_4.1.pdf 

[6] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.SRV.TETC.ZS?locations=AM

April 10, 2017

The Armenian Government: A Parent or an Employee on the Way To Democracy?

By Armine Mkhitaryan, 
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow


In this post, the readiness for democracy is operationalized into two indicators: government as a parent or as an employee. Literature suggests that if people treat the government as an employee it means they are completely ready for democracy (Bessete & Pitney 2013; Slatter 2004; Diamond 1989).

Source: CRRC Caucasus Barometer, 2015

The Caucasus Barometer survey in 2015 by Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia finds that while most Armenians (78%) say they see the government as a parent and only 22% as an employee, more than 56% of respondents still estimated democracy as “Absolutely important”. Some factors such as a high level of education, high financial status or high social status were analyzed to see if those stand behind such a wish for democracy. The findings reflected in infographics above illustrate that high level of education, high financial status and high social status do not necessarily assume more positive attitude towards democracy (CRRC Caucasus Barometer 2015; World Values Survey 2014).


November 17, 2016

Ի՞նչն է պայմանավորում Հայաստանում հանրային մասնակցությունը տեղական ինքնակառավարմանը

English below



Ո՞ր գործոններն են պայմանավորում հայաստանցիների մասնակցությունը տեղական ինքնակառավարմանը: Սույն պատկերագիրը ներկայացնում է այդ գործոններից մի քանիսը: Պատկերագրի հեղինակը ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի կամավոր Սոնիա Սիրոպյանն է: Պատկերագրի համար աղբյուր է ծառայել ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի «ՀաՄաՏեղ» հետազոտական ծրագրի դրամաշնորհառու Մարգարիտա Գաբոյանի ուսումնասիրությունը՝ հիմնված ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի 2015թ. «ՀաՄաՏեղ» համապետական հարցման տվյալների վրա



The author of the infographics is Sonia Siropyan, CRRC-Armenia volunteer. A source for the infographics is a research by Margarita Gaboyan, CRRC-Armenia CELoG fellowship receiver. The study was based on the CELoG nation-wide survey results. 

October 5, 2016

Homogeneity, Social Capital and Political Participation in Armenia

Analysis of the Caucasus Barometer and World Value Survey data



By Sonia Siropian
CRRC-Armenia volunteer



As we live in a globalized world with constant migration flows, ethnic diversity has become a common reality of the modern society and a debated topic in countries where nationalist parties have come to rise. Political representatives of nationalist parties commonly criticize ethnic diversity as an argument against immigration, claiming that multiculturalism makes integration difficult and divides the nation, resulting in what they call ‘parallel societies’. Consequently, they argue that the creation of parallel societies threatens democracy and instead, they advocate ethnically and religiously homogeneous societies. A similar account for diversity has also been proposed by scientific scholars, of which Samuel P. Huntington (1996; 2004) may be the most well-known in his debated Magnum Opus ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ and his critical reflections regarding immigration to America in his work ‘Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity’ (2004).

One could interpret the understanding of heterogeneity as a democratic threat, as a possible tension in what is defined in political science as social capital. In short, social capital is characterized by reciprocity, trust and cooperation in social networks, where public goods are produced for a common good (Putnam 2000). Putnam (2000) who coined the term argues that strong social capital is a fundamental element of a functioning democracy. Social capital could hence be argued to engage the citizens in political participation and thus contribute to the democratic development. This post will examine whether the level of social capital in the Armenian society can be connected to the level of political participation, while challenging the argument that homogeneous societies (here, the Armenian society) do have increased social capital. This will be conducted by using data provided by Caucasus Barometer, which is a cross-country nationally representative survey running in the three countries of South Caucasus; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.[1] The analysis will also refer to World Values Survey, consisting of surveys conducted in almost 100 countries which contain almost 90 percent of the world’s population, using a common questionnaire.[2]

Armenia is often described as an exceptionally homogeneous country, and the Caucasus Barometer (CRRC 2015) can confirm this view, as 91% of the respondents consider themselves to belong to the Armenian Apostolic church and 99% of the respondents describe their ethnicity as Armenian. This implies that the Armenian society is religiously and ethnically homogeneous which, according to the previously mentioned arguments, should also generate high levels of social capital and political participation. 

However, it should be addressed that homogeneity could be understood as a rather ambiguous concept, because although societies may be homogeneous regarding ethnicity or religion, these societies still consist of individuals that may have varying values and beliefs that are not founded in their ethnic or religious background. One of many examples can be found in the Caucasus Barometer, which illustrates the diversity in values and beliefs among the Armenian people. The respondents were asked the question “Support or oppose opening of the Armenia-Turkey border with no preconditions?” – a sensitive question that particularly engages many Armenians because of the heated, and historically rooted conflict between the countries. The responses were rather equally distributed around the spectrum, which indicates varying beliefs in a homogeneous society. Hence, even when researching countries that are generally viewed as homogenous, researchers should still consider the complexity of societies, and the individuals that form societies. It then has to be concluded that the Armenian society may be considered as homogenous in regards to ethnic and religious identity, but it does not prove homogeneity in societal values.




In this post, social capital will be operationalized into three indicators. Firstly, trust and reciprocity are two essential elements of the understanding of social capital. The more people engage with each other, the more they will trust each other which produces and embodies social capital. Putnam has observed the decline in social capital in the United States by revealing drops in political participation and reduction in formal (i.e. unions and organizations) and informal (i.e. friends and neighbours) socialization.[3] Hence, this post will draw from Putnam’s conceptualization of social capital and use trust, socialization and political participation as indicators. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that social capital is a multi-dimensional and complex concept, and that it, as many other social phenomena, is not easily measured. This analysis will thus be looking at trust, socialization and political participation as indicators of social capital to identify tendencies, rather than make definite assumptions, about the social capital in Armenia.

In the Caucasus Barometer, only 5% of the respondents in Armenia believed that most people could be trusted. In comparison, in countries like Sweden and the Netherlands that are considered well-functioning democracies, over 60% of the respondents believed that most people can be trusted (World Values Survey, 2010-2014). Respondents in Armenia were also asked whether they trust close people to help them in different situations, for instance 45% expect that people close to them will take care of them if they get ill. In case they need to borrow money for a month for usual expenses, only 33% say it’s very likely that they can expect that from people close to them. In the last six months at the time of the survey, only 10% of the respondents attended a public meeting and 37% volunteered without compensation, which reveals a rather limited social network among the respondents. The low trust that the respondents show in people in general, and in people close to them, combined with the low socialization in networks, imply that the social capital is very limited. These findings indicate an exceptionally low level of trust and reciprocity among the Armenian people, which suggests that the social capital in Armenia can be expected to be weak. 


Regarding the political participation of the citizens, the assumption that there is low social capital in Armenia can be supported by the low rates of voter turnout. According to International IDEA, in the parliamentary election of 2012 the voter turnout was 62.8 %, and approximately 60% voted in the presidential election in 2013.[4] This number is seemingly stable, as the Caucasus Barometer shows that only 63% of the respondents would certainly participate in a hypothetical presidential election in the coming week. Additionally, according to World Values Survey (2011), 89.8% of the respondents are not members of a political party and 77.2% claim that they would never participate in a peaceful demonstration. However, it is not political motivation that they are lacking, as 34% of the respondents in the Caucasus Barometer claim that the country’s domestic politics is definitely going in the wrong direction, and 20% think that it is mainly going in the wrong direction. So, what is keeping them from engaging in the political life and pursuing political change? One possible answer could be that the seemingly low social capital plays a significant role in that picture. 


The findings of this analysis suggest that an ethnically and religiously homogenous country does not necessarily generate high social capital and political participation. Since democracy depends on people participating in the political life, it suggests that the Armenian case may still be developing its’ democratic features in terms of realizing the power of the people and pursuing political interests. Perhaps the argument that emphasizes homogeneity’s importance for social capital and democracy should rather be focusing on homogeneity in terms of a shared understanding of the fundaments of civic engagement In other words – perhaps social capital does not derive from an ethnically and religiously homogenous society, but rather from people who share the motivation to shape society for the better and the realization of their own power to pursue their interests, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. How to strengthen the social capital in Armenia remains to be studied, and further research on building societies characterized by mutual trust and reciprocity is highly encouraged. More analyses of the links between homogeneity, social capital and political participation are also needed to deepen the understanding of their significance. What can be concluded from the analysis of the data used is that social capital could still be considered as an important element for political participation, however, in the case of the Armenian society, ethnic or religious homogeneity is not necessarily the key ingredient in the participative, and hence democratic, political equation.



[1] http://www.crrc.am/caucasusbarometer
[2] http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org 
[3] Putnam. R. D. (1995a). Bowling alone: America's declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6, 65-78
[4] http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=8 


September 27, 2016

Discourse of post-April events in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Lidiya Chikalova
CRRC-Armenia International Fellow



The April 2016 events on the line of contact have destabilized the security situation in the Southern Caucasus. An attempt to change the status quo in the region was not successful. The mediation of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is postponed until further initiatives from conflict actors. The regional and global geopolitical players, Russia, Turkey, EU, the USA, and Iran, present in the conflict arena are contending for dominance in the region. Have April events in Nagorno-Karabakh changed the geopolitical outlay? This question is analyzed within the CRRC-Armenia international fellowship by means of ten collected expert interviews both in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the regional level, heirs to the former empires step in – Russian, Ottoman, Persian. States with geopolitical and economic interests keep a diplomatic game rolling in favor of dominance. On the global level other powerful states and unions like the US and Europe step in to seek for access to the Caspian and Black Sea regions. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict becomes a good leverage for the maneuvering of external players in the regional and global security spaces. Therefore the overall geopolitical picture of Nagorno-Karabakh is very complex.  

The core arguments of the study were formed around Russian perspective on its regional dominance. The first hypothesis argued that Russia is a primary, but not the only influential player in the Southern Caucasus. Second, that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a battlefield between Russia and Turkey for geopolitical dominance, not between Russia and the US. The data was collected in Armenia (7 interviews) and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (3 interviews) from political experts and researchers, chosen on the basis of active and continuous research in the field.

According to the findings based on interviews, Russia is a primary major player today, but not the only one. Turkey together with the USA are balancing Russia in the region. Respondents were asked to state what country, in their opinion, is dominating in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Question posed
Response
Rn
Is Russia the primary player in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
1
Yes, Russia is the only player
2
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
3
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
4
Yes, Russia is the only player
5
Yes, Russia is the only player
6
Both Turkey and Russia
7
Yes, Russia is the only player
8
Yes, Russia is the only player
9
Both Turkey and Russia
10


The second hypothesis, which is Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a battlefield between Russia and Turkey for geopolitical dominance, but not between Russia and the West was confirmed as well. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the only stage where Russia and the USA agree on action steps and have constructive dialogue.


Question posed
Response
Rn


Do Turkey and the USA threaten Russia’s geopolitical dominance in Nagorno-Karabakh particularly?
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
1
No, Russia is the only player
2
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
3
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
4
No, Russia is the only player
5
No, Russia is the only player
6
Turkey, not the USA
7
No, Russia is the only player
8
No, Russia is the only player
9
Turkey, not the USA
10


Several case scenarios were revealed on the basis of interviewees’ responses. A part of the questionnaire was focused on current status quo in the Southern Caucasus region and a change of the situation. Further questions helped assess the current mood towards conflict development in the Armenian society: What has got to happen for the present status quo to change? Which confrontation is ongoing in the Nagorno-Karabakh: Turkey vs. Russia or the West vs. Russia? Is Russia considered as the only player, if not, who are other players? With the inefficiency of international organizations like the OSCE and the UN and peace talks what outcomes/developments can we see in the region? Based on responses from interviewees and content analysis of phrases “increase of conflict”, “escalation”, “conflict resolution”, “external measures”, “war”, and “peace” author compiled elements of three possible case scenarios of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. The ultimate case scenario majority of respondents expressed was case-scenario B with elements of case-scenario C.  


Case scenario A
n/a
If to keep the escalation of the conflict in mind, then Georgian August-2008 scenario is possible. There might be a time for similar events when leaders are outside of the country.
Case scenario B
Rn: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
The intensity of the conflict will continue, it will increase/decrease, but the seriousness of actions, like war will not happen again. The peace process will continue without a proper conflict resolution.
Case scenario C
Rn: 1, 10
After the war, parties (external) to the conflict might decide that serious measures must be undertaken. A decision will be made for all actors to accept. With the lack of political will from both sides, any sensible resolution will be imposed.

The April events, a four-day war, have not changed the geopolitical outlay on the whole. Russia remains a major player in the region who seeks to keep the status quo. Moreover, Russia is involved very much in peace process between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic represented by Armenia, which has not been reached so far. Turkey steps into the game for regional dominance, unlike the USA, and sparks rivalry with Russia. Experts agreed on the possible case scenario for Nagorno-Karabakh, excluding potential conflict resolution in the near future.




September 24, 2016

The Republic of Armenia in Numbers

By Sonia Siropian, CRRC-Armenia Volunteer
     Mariam Arakelyan, CRRC-Armenia Program Assistant



Source: Caucasus Barometer 2008, 2015

August 4, 2016

Trust towards political institutions: variations from titular ethnicity to ethnic minority in Azerbaijan and Georgia

By Mariam Arakelyan
CRRC-Armenia Program Assistant



Trust towards political institutions strengthens the legitimacy, stability and efficiency of any government. Distrust can be very helpful to encourage the government to work better, but at the same time distrust costs alienation and withdrawal from the political processes, as well as results in a fragile state that is unable to mobilize national resources or shape a collective vision for national development (Dimond, 2007). There is no consensus in scientific literature regarding the potential causes of trust. While, some scholars, attribute trust toward the institutions to cultural norms (Mishler, Rose,2001 ) others consider trust as an expected utility of institutions performing satisfactorily (Coleman, 1990; Dasgupta, 1988; Hetherington, 1998 as cited in Mishler, Rose, 2001). 

Trust becomes more crucial for multi-ethnic countries that have the responsibility to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, including indigenous people. It can well be the case that in such countries ethnic minorities exhibit lower level of trust toward political institutions than the ethnic majority, as they may face problems of integration, can remain highly underrepresented in central and local government and administration as well as can be socially, economically and culturally marginalized. The aim of this blogpost is understand the level of trust ethnic minorities exhibit toward the political institutions in the two countries of the South Caucasus: Georgia and Azerbaijan. Armenia is excluded from the analysis as it is a mono-ethnic country, with the majority of the population being ethnic Armenians. 

The fact that relatively large communities of ethnic minorities live compactly in Georgia and Azerbaijan allows us to compare a data of one administrative unit populated by ethnic minority with a similar unit populated by the title ethnicity. Particularly, in the case of Georgia the regions of Kvemo Kartli (45% of ethnic Azerbaijanis[1]) and Samtskhe-Javakheti (54.5 % of ethnic Armenians) will be compared to the region of Imereti (99% of ethnic Georgians). In the case of Azerbaijan the Economic administrative unit of Quba-Xaçmaz (with compact population of Lezgians) will be compared to Dağlıq Şirvan (majority of ethnic Azerbaijanis).


For the analysis the 2013 wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey is utilized[2]. Trust toward the President, toward the Parliament and toward the Government is the main variables under scrutiny. Respondents were asked following question “Please assess your level of trust toward each of the political and social institutions on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”.

Chart 1 depicts respondents’ trust toward the political institutions in the Georgian regions under scrutiny. 

                                Chart 1
Note: The original question: “Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. How much do you trust or distrust /country’s/…?” The original question was recoded: answer options “Fully trust” and “Somewhat trust” into “Trust” and answer options “Somewhat distrust” and “Fully distrust” into “Distrust”.
According to the Chart1 people in Kvemo Kartli expresses higher level of trust toward the president, the government and the parliament compared with Imereti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. In Kvemo Kartli 53% of population show trust, while 51% of Imereti population express their distrust for president (At the time of fieldwork (October 3-27, 2013) incumbent president in Georgia was Mikheil Saakashvili)[2], which opposes the suggested hypothesis. Moreover, “Do not know” is the answer of 20% and 17% of Kvemo Kartli population for the trust respectively toward the Parliament and the Government. At the same time, Chart 1 presents the fact that population of Samtskhe-Javakheti has the most accentuated indifference toward the political institutions, as the level of “neither trust nor distrust” for all three institutions is higher than it has been expressed by the people living in remaining two regions and the lowest level of “Distrust” among the Georgian regions. 

                                Chart 2
Note: The original question: “Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. How much do you trust or distrust /country’s/…?” The original question was recoded: answer options “Fully trust” and “Somewhat trust” into “Trust” and answer options “Somewhat distrust” and “Fully distrust” into “Distrust”.
The case of Azerbaijan also seems not support the suggested hypothesis as the population of Quba-Xaçmaz, populated by ethnic minorities expresses as much trust as that of Dağlıq Şirvan. Interestingly, the trust toward the president is very high in both regions. Particularly, in Dağlıq Şirvan 77% of the respondents trust the president, while in Quba-Xaçmaz only 60%.

The current analysis seems to be in conflict with the reports on Azerbaijan that suggest minority right protection problems and harassment. However, it can also be the case that the respondents are unwilling to answer to the questions sincerely as the freedom of speech is heavily constrained in Azerbaijan. 

In sum, the blogpost fails to find a relationship between being an ethnic minority and expressing distrust toward political institutions in the two republics of the South Caucasus: Georgia and Azerbaijan.




[1] Please note that Caucasus Barometer survey is representative for countries but is not representative for administrative units, therefore results are made with reservation.. Trust toward the President, toward the Parliament and toward the Government is the main variables under scrutiny. Respondents were asked following question “Please assess your level of trust toward each of the political and social institutions on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. 
[2] Data of National Statistical Service of Georgia (2002), which during last decade showed increasing tendency