November 30, 2012

VET Graduates in Armenia: Unemployed or Underpaid


Given the important role of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in providing the necessary knowledge and skills to be competitive in today’s labor market, the European Training Foundation (ETF) contracted CRRC-Armenia to conduct a graduates’ tracer survey in Kotayk and Ararat marzes of Armenia. The survey focused on a wide range of issues important to VET in Armenia and discovered several key trends. Generally, there was a mismatch between VET training skills and employment types. Overall, graduates of some specializations had extremely high levels of unemployment, while others faired somewhat better. Similarly, graduates of certain specializations were generally satisfied with their education, while those from other areas often reported that they were not.


On November 22, 2012 CRRC-Armenia, in cooperation with the ETF and Global Developments” Fund (GDF), held a conference to present the “Tracer Study of Recent Graduates from Vocational Education Institutions in Kotyak and Ararat Marzes of Armenia”. The seminar gathered all relevant stakeholders in the scenic town of Tsaghkadzor. About 50 representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, state employment agencies, VET institutions, employers’ unions, ETF, CRRC-Armenia, GDF, United Nations Development Programme, as well as selected VET graduates and their parents, convened to discuss the survey’s findings. The event was chaired by CRRC-Armenia director, Dr. Heghine Manasyan.


 The survey and subsequent report sought to advance the knowledge about the relevance of VET programs offered in Armenia. The study targeted 2009 and 2010 graduates of 13 state VET institutions in Kotayk and Ararat marzes and covered 451 graduates, including 278 women. 
According to the research results, slightly more than one-third of graduates (35.9%) considered themselves employed and employment rates varied across fields of study. Agriculture graduates were employed at the highest rate (75%) and Education and Healthcare graduates at the lowest (26.3% and 22.6%, respectively). It is interesting to note that reported employment was higher among Pre VET graduates than Mid VET graduates. Pre VET graduates also earned 20% more on average than Mid VET diploma-holders. The average salary of most employed graduates ranged from 50 to 100 thousand AMD (120-250 USD) a month. Women were employed at a lower rate and earned less than their male colleagues, though the share of self-employed women was higher than that of men. In general, graduates from rural areas were more successful in finding jobs than those from urban areas.
While most graduates felt that “personal interest towards the profession” was a determining factor when choosing the field of study, nearly two-thirds of them (63.6%) admitted that their qualifications were not relevant to their occupation. As a result, the role of a diploma in finding a job was perceived as very limited. The survey showed that many VET graduates’ satisfaction with their education was not highly correlated to their current employment status, which indicates that they viewed their education as an “independent” or “formal” value rather than a decisive requirement for prospective career opportunities.
The reasons most commonly reported for unemployment were that it was “impossible to find any job” and “family circumstances”. Contacts from family and friends was mentioned as a useful resource in finding a job for the overwhelming majority of graduates (80.9%), followed by knowledge and skills acquired during education (23.5%). Employment services and career centers played a role in securing employment for only 7.4% of respondents.
Based on the survey’s findings, CRRC-Armenia made several key recommendations for VET in Armenia. The major proposed changes are curriculum revision (especially in fields such as Information and Communication Technologies, Engineering and Economics), more focus on the quality of core skills (i.e. foreign languages, communication, entrepreneurial and IT skills), increased career guidance, as well as a deeper involvement of the business community in educational content development.




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November 29, 2012

Open Skies for Armenia


By Anastasia Baskina, CRRC – Armenia International Fellow

On November 20, 2012 CRRC-Armenia, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Office in Armenia and the Department of Economics of the Yerevan State Universityorganized a public lecture on “Global, regional developments and their impact on Armenia”. The lecture was conducted by Mr. Guillermo Tolosa, the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, and attracted students, researchers and business people interested in global economic developments and their effect on Armenia.




The IMF Resident Representative presented the recently issued IMF’s World Economic Outlook and Regional Economic Outlook. Mr. Tolosa began his lecture by reviewing major economic developments and key risks to global growth. Specifically, he highlighted the fact that global manufacturing continues to contract and world trade growth has come to a halt. As a result, the IMF’s global economic outlook has worsened. In addition, the protracted euro zone crisis, the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in the USA and rising global food prices have added to the challenges of emerging and developing economies.

Turning to the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region, Mr. Tolosa noted that despite worsening global economic conditions, the growth outlook in the CCA was generally positive. In the oil and gas importing states -Armenia, Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan - overall growth is projected to strengthen next year. Growth in these countries is helped by two key factors: robust remittances from Russia and high commodity prices (e.g. metals, cotton).
However, significant risks remain, including: possible deterioration of the economic situation in Russia and its adverse effect on the CCA region due to their interconnectedness, a significant decrease in global commodity prices and trade volume, and/or a drop in financial flows. Volatile food prices also pose a major threat because of both inflation and the growth of current account balances. Global food prices are especially important for Armenia because, like Georgia and the Kyrgyz Republic, it is a large food importer. In addition, food constitutes a considerable share of people’s consumption baskets in these countries (over 45% in Armenia), which means that any increase in global food prices will seriously restrict the overall purchasing power of much of the population.

The informal sector in all CCA economies is another factor undermining social protection and further economic growth. The IMF’s empirical estimates show that the informal economy in Armenia accounts for more than 35% of officially measured GDP.



Mr.Tolosa concluded his presentation by giving key recommendations for rebuilding policy buffers, revitalizing the Armenian economy aimed at inclusive growth and job creation, and reducing the informal sector. According to IMF, policy makers need to increase exchange rate flexibility, build up foreign reserves, improve the quality of public spending, strengthening tax revenues, and improve competitiveness and the business environment.



The lecture was followed by a lively discussion and provoked many questions, mainly from the international economic relations students in attendance. The audience was particularly keen to know more about similarities and differences in economic development of the South Caucasus states. Mr. Tolosa, not speaking for the IMF at this point, highlighted Georgia, the group’s most robust and diversified economy. Fueled by reforms, strong investment and healthy activity in the services and manufacturing sectors, Georgia’s economy is expected to continue to perform strongly. Nevertheless, Mr.Tolosa expressed that he felt there was great growth potential for the Armenian economy, especially in the tourism sector.One specific policy he mentioned was removing the current restrictions on budget airlines in order to increase the air traffic between Europe and Armenia and open the skies for businesses and tourists alike.

To access the IMF Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia online please visit: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/reo/2012/mcd/eng/mreo1112.htm

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November 19, 2012

A Positive Future for Armenia?


CRRC-Armenia has recently released the 2011 Caucasus Barometer data to its website and to the Online Data Analysis tool on CRRC-Georgia’s website.The Online Data Analysis system allows users to adjust the parameters of charts directly from the website without having to download the database or own a statistical software program. The Caucasus Barometer has information about many aspects of Armenians’ lives including media sources, sense of satisfaction and happiness, and opinions about democracy in Armenia. It also allows users to adjust the parameters of charts from the website. When aggregated by age group, the data indicates a great discrepancy between the youth and those over 56 years old. In general, younger generations feel more positive emotions and are more satisfied with their lives.

When asked whether the statement “I experience a general sense of emptiness” describes them or not, respondents were quite split with their answers. Overall, 46% of all respondents stated that this statement does not describe them with the remainder stating that it either describers them completely or more or less does so (26% each), and 2% did not know. However, when split by age group, the data shows that those 56 years old and over are more likely to agree with this statement (36%) than those between ages 18 and 35 (19%).




A similar outcome occurs for the topic of feeling rejected. In total, 62% agreed that the statement “I often feel rejected” does not describe them while fewer respondents answered that it more or less describes them (20%) or describes them (18%).” Yet again, when split by age group, older generations responded more that they do, in fact, often feel rejected. While only 12% of respondents aged 18-35 say that this describes them, those aged 56 and over were more than twice as likely to claim that they often feel rejected (27%). 




Two possibilities could be behind such a gap in generations. First, it could solely reflect the respondents’ mentality and enthusiasm or lack thereof. Younger people in Armenia might be more content with their lives and more optimistic about the future. Older people have experienced the tough economic and political transition from Soviet rule to democracy, and this may have instilled in them a more negative outlook on life. The second possibility is that the older generations are ignored in policy making or in society as a whole and therefore, have a weak support system. Thus, they encounter more difficulties in their daily lives and truly feel empty and rejected.

Two other sets of data from the questionnaire display a similar disparity between the young and the old. When asked to rate their overall life satisfaction on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being “not satisfied at all” and 5 being “completely satisfied,” the most frequent response was a 3 (37%) followed by 4 (20%) and 1 (18%). But, when the data is separated by age, the youngest category responded more positively with 41% giving a rating of either a 4 or 5. On the opposite end of the spectrum, almost half of respondents 56 or older (47%) rated their satisfaction as either a 1 or 2.




The questionnaire also asked respondents how happy they consider themselves to be on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being extremely unhappy and 5 extremely happy. The overall results were quite optimistic with the rating most often selected being  3 (33%), with 85% of respondents rating themselves as 3 or higher. While the 18-35 group consider themselves quite happy (only 6% gave a rating below 3), the 56 and older group is more evenly distributed with 1 and 5 appearing at the same frequency (19%).




When compared with the other two South Caucasian countries (Azerbaijan and Georgia), the results show that there is also a gap between the younger and older generations. However, it appears that Armenians generally have a more negative outlook on life. The data from Azerbaijan indicates that 9% of total respondents experience a general sense of emptiness while 13% of those aged 56 or over say they do. Similarly, 13% of Georgian respondents claim they experience a general sense of emptiness while 20% of older respondents claim they do. Yet, the response from Armenia revealed a stronger feeling of emptiness with 26% of total respondents and 36% of respondents from the oldest age category answering that this describes them.

If you found these statistics and graphs helpful or interesting, go to CRRC’s ODA system and create your own!





November 12, 2012

Despite the Rain: Lifelong Learning Days in Armenia


On November 10, 2012, CRRC-Armenia participated in the Expo of Non-Formal Training Providers as part of the Lifelong Learning (LLL)  Days in Armenia. The event was organized by the Armenian Lifelong Learning League with the support of DVV International (Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association) office in Armenia with an aim to contribute to increase availability of LLL and particularly adult education for all individuals. 

Despite bad weather and the rain, the event was held in the open air, at Boghossian Gardens, and besides official opening ceremony and expo, included also master classes, performances, and film demonstration. 















November 8, 2012

Migration in Armenia: Young and Ready to Work


Many Armenians are having difficulty finding work and are looking to migration as a way to increase their quality of life. Though there are differences in the demographic characteristics of migrants as well as many reasons for this migration, key trends have been found from this project that can help shape policies for Armenia’s future. Read on for a more in-depth look at CRRC’s recent project initiated and funded by ETF on migration and skills in Armenia.

CRRC– Armenia has recently released the findings of a survey on migration and skills. The project was initiated and funded by the European Training Foundation (ETF) and was part of a larger, multi country, set of similar surveys. The survey focused on the relationship between skills, migration and development in Armenia. Just over 2,600 potential migrants and 1,400 returned migrants were interviewed.  The project’s overall objective was to contribute to the improvement of evidence-based policies on migration, skills and employment by investigating the links between migration and skills and by supporting stakeholders in Armenia.

Over the last few weeks, CRRC – Armenia director, Dr. Heghine Manasyan, has presented the findings of this project to several different groups in the region. On October 16th, Dr. Manasyan presented; along with ETF expert, Arne Baumann; the results of the project within an international conference hosted by ETF called “Skills and Employment for Returning Migrants.” On October 30th, Dr. Manasyan gave a presentation at The World Bank office in Armenia as part of their brown bag lunch series and was encouraged to find the audience excited and asking many questions throughout the session.  Most recently, on November 2nd, she participated in a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia hosted by GIZ and was asked to report the main findings of the project in Armenia and Georgia to the audience.


Dr. Manasyan and other panelists at GIZ conference in Tbilisi

Some of the most interesting findings of the project are:

Who is considering migration?
The desire to migrate varies greatly depending on age, gender and education level. For men, those who are highly educated and those who just finished basic schooling are the most likely to consider migration (see graph below), while those who completed secondary school are the least likely. In general, women are less likely to consider migration, but this difference is especially stark among poorly educated women, who unlike their male counterparts show very little desire to migrate. The education characteristics of potential migrants show that while there are some highly educated people who want to leave, a brain drain is not the primary concern for Armenia. A more worrying trend for Armenian policy makers is that unlike migration from Armenia in the past, the current migrants are much younger. These younger migrants are much more likely to move permanently to the host country than older migrants, which will further add to the declining population in the country.


 
Destinations:
Russia was both the main destination for returned migrants as well as the most likely destination for potential migrants. Despite this similarity, a large difference is noted in the percentage of those who desire to go migrate to Russia and those who have returned from Russia (60.4% and 85.2%, respectively).  When compared to migration in Georgia, as shown below, migration in Armenia is much less diversified in terms of location.

 
Skills and support:
The overwhelming majority (98%) of the returned migrants had done so without any prior training to prepare them for living or working abroad. Only around 1% attended language training. There were great differences in the responses when returned migrants were asked if their education and qualifications corresponded with their work abroad, though a basic trend can be found. Many (81.4%) of the poorly educated migrants said that their qualifications matched their work while the highly educated answered this way only 29.8% of the time. Obviously, the poorly educated have corresponding qualifications to low skill jobs and the combination of this matching and the lack of correspondence between work and qualifications for the highly educated indicate that many Armenians are working low skill jobs abroad.

Returnees: Correspondence of Work with Education Level


Returned migrants’ assessment:
Given the difficulties that many migrants face during their time abroad, it would not be shocking if they returned with negative feelings towards the experience. However, large-scale negativity was not found; 82% of returned migrants reported that their migration was successful while only slightly over 1% answered that their migration was either unsuccessful or extremely unsuccessful.


These responses show that even though there currently isn’t a great deal of support for them, the Armenian population continues working and feels that they are succeeding in creating better lives for them and their families.