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Mikheil Saakashvili: “Georgia is among the world’s top five countries in terms of the unemployment rate.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement is a LIE.

Resume: According to the data of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Georgia is technically ranked 13th among 186 countries and territorial units in terms of the unemployment rate. In the case of Georgia, these statistics reflect 2020 unemployment figures and, in most cases, the unemployment figures before 2020; that is, prior to the pandemic. A comparison of the figures for different years; moreover, figures before the pandemic and after, is manipulative and distorts the real picture. In addition, a comparison of the data of different countries is also inappropriate given the different methodologies vis-à-vis unemployment statistics.

Analysis

The third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, on air on the TV show Mtavari Aktsentebi, stated: “Georgia is among the world’s top five countries, together with four African nations, in terms of a high unemployment rate.”

According to the data of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Georgia is technically ranked 13th among 186 countries and territorial units in terms of the unemployment rate. In the case of Georgia, these statistics reflect 2020 unemployment figures and, in most cases, unemployment figures before 2020; that is, prior to the pandemic (2019 and 2014-2018). Of note is that in 2020, the pandemic-induced economic crisis and related restrictions negatively affected the unemployment rate across the world. In 2020, the unemployment rate in Georgia increased by 0.9 of a percentage point and reached 18.5%. In addition to the fact that a comparison of the data of different years with each other is inappropriate, a comparison of periods before and after the pandemic further distorts the real picture and is manipulative. For instance, Georgia’s unemployment rate is slightly (0.2 of a percentage point) higher in these statistics as compared to Armenia’s unemployment rate because figures for Armenia from 2019 are used; that is, statistics prior to the pandemic. In fact, Georgia’s unemployment rate (17.6%) in 2019 was lower as compared to Armenia’s unemployment rate (18.3%).

Source: International Labour Organisation

A comparison of the data of different countries is also inappropriate given the different methodologies vis-à-vis unemployment statistics. The ILO’s new standard of unemployment statistics, which has not yet been introduced in every country, stipulates a technical growth of unemployment and a reduction in the employment rate. In addition, it is disputable whether or not the unemployment statistics show the real picture in some countries (for instance, in African states).

The ILO-suggested new unemployment measurement standard officially entered into force in October 2018 at the 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians. The methodology has already been introduced in some countries but not everywhere. Georgia moved to the new ILO standard last year and employment/unemployment were recalculated. Of note is that the new unemployment measurement standard provides more of a real picture of the situation in the country. After the introduction of the new methodology, a recategorisation of self-employed people took place - some were included in the unemployed category and some ended up outside of the workforce. As a result, the number of unemployed individuals increased whilst the workforce; that is, the economically active population, decreased which caused a sharp growth in the unemployment rate. In accordance with the old methodology, the unemployment rate in Georgia was 11.6% in 2019 whilst as a result of the recalculation based on the new methodology, the unemployment rate increased to 17.6%.

Of note is that politicians often manipulate this issue by using ILO statistics. In fact, in order to have a world ranking, it is necessary that countries employ an identical methodology for measuring unemployment and similar years need to be taken for comparison. FactCheck agrees that unemployment is one of Georgia’s major challenges, although the claim that Georgia is among the world’s top five countries in terms of the unemployment rate is not even technically true.

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