Bidzina Ivanishvili suggests Georgians seek work abroad to tackle unemployment

29 November 2019
Bidzina Ivanishvili being interviewed on Imedi TV.

Despite making a promise to create ‘tens of thousands of jobs’ in 2012, when he came in power, the chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili said he was surprised that Georgians demand he create jobs in the country. 

In a controversial interview with pro-government TV station Imedi on Wednesday, Ivanishvili suggested Georgians should engage in circular migration and seek jobs in Europe, because ‘no economy can create 2 million jobs in Georgia within 10–20 years’.

Georgia’s official unemployment rate stands at 13% but surveys put it as high as 21%. 

According to a July poll by the National Democratic Institute, 61% of Georgians consider themselves unemployed. It also found that 43% of Georgians think they can afford less than they could five years ago. 

Ivanishvili lamented that though there was a ‘deficit of professionals in every field across the country’ he was still being blamed for high unemployment. 

He said he believed that in both the economy and human rights in his team had made ‘significant progress’.

‘We are working with Europe’s developed countries. We are making contracts to fill in the deficit [of the workforce] that Europeans have. They have available jobs, but lack the workforce. We don’t have jobs and this is our main problem’,  he said.

He said that Georgian immigrants currently illegally working in Europe should return and be retrained in order to be legally hired in Germany, France, and other countries.

‘The problem is that most Georgians are working illegally [In Europe]. Therefore, they can’t return and stay humiliated’, he said. He added that the Georgian Government had actively started work on sending ‘several hundred’ workers to work in seasonal jobs in the spring of 2020, with the hope that ‘in  2–3 years, it’s possible to make contracts with these countries’.

Even though resolving unemployment was one of the cornerstones of Georgian Dream’s promises, Ivanishvili said on Wednesday that he could not recall a ‘principal promise’ that he had made and didn’t fulfil. 

In December 2012, upon coming to power, then Prime Minister Ivanishvili said that the first year of his rule would be ‘hard’ in terms of economic growth, however, there would be a significant improvement in the following four years. 

‘The second year will be significantly better. The third year, the majority of the population will feel the improvement themselves and it will be felt in their pockets. The fourth year will be very good’, Ivanishvili said.

Reacting to accusations of ‘undelivered promises’, Ivanishvili said on Wednesday that it was ‘slander’ to say that he did not deliver on a promise. 

‘I can’t recall a single principal promise I have made and haven’t delivered. I think twice before making a promise’, said Ivanishvili adding that the recent failure of electoral reform was the only exception.

[Read more on OC Media: Riot police deploy water cannons to clear Georgian Parliament of protesters]

Can circular migration resolve unemployment?

‘Circular migration cannot be the main axis of an employment policy’, Kote Eristavi, the director of social policy programmes at rights group the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC) told OC Media.

He said the initiative would not make a change in Georgia unless there was a long-term development goal initiated alongside. 

‘This can be a temporary measure, beneficial for both countries. The employee should be gaining new skills that they will utilise in their domestic country and for that, a system should be implemented domestically. If we don’t change anything in this respect, it’s unlikely that circular migration will make any significant improvement [in the economic situation]’, Eristavi said. 

He said it was more of a ‘survival policy than a development policy’, and that it would not work in the long run and would be dependant on economic conditions in the European Union. 

‘The main problem is that we haven’t put in place a domestic employment policy. Our policies of training a workforce don’t stem from market demands. We don’t have industrial policies, nor such efficient policies that would create jobs’, Eristavi added.

He said that political parties in Georgia have no vision of how to tackle unemployment.

‘Their common vision is that economic growth and free-market relations will create jobs by themselves, which is not true’, he concluded.

Migration and labour

According to the 2019 report of the Georgian Government’s State Commission on Migrants’ Issues, the number of Georgian emigrants increased in 2018. 

The biggest number of them are in Russia, though since 2015 the number of those who have a residence permit in EU countries has also increased. Compared to the year before, in 2018 their number increased by 8.5%. 60% of residence permit owners in the EU live and work in Greece, Italy, and Germany.

During the last four years, remittances increased by 32%, the biggest share of them coming from Russia. However, according to the report, there was a slight decrease in 2018 in transfers from Russia compared to the year before. 

‘In recent years, the share of transfers from Israel increased rapidly. The share of transfers from almost all EU countries also increased’, the report reads. 

The number of illegal Georgian migrants in EU countries has also increased significantly, according to the report. The largest number of illegal migrants were identified as living in Germany, France, Greece, Poland and Spain.

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