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Beka Liluashvili: “Last year, there was the largest negative net migration since 2012.”

Verdict: WITHOUT A VERDICT

Resume: Migration is one of the biggest challenges of the country and every year there are more people leaving Georgia as compared to those who return. The year 2020 was an exception in this regard with a positive net migration (15,372) which was attributable to the pandemic and the shutting down of the borders. When international borders were re-opened in 2021, it was logical that emigration increased again whilst immigration (people who come to Georgia) decreased. Net migration (the difference between emigrants and immigrants) was 25,966 in 2021.

According to the data of 2020-2021, the largest negative net migration was technically registered in 2021. The 2021 migration figures also include those people who temporarily came to Georgia because of the pandemic and were unable to return because of border closures. In addition, people who planned emigration (for study or work) as early as in 2020 and were unable to do so because of the pandemic and the closed borders are also part of this figure.

Beka Liluashvili correctly indicates the high rate of migration, particularly the migration of working-age population. However, a comparison of the net migration of the pandemic period, in this case 2021, to the previous years is irrelevant and does not provide an objective picture. Therefore, FactCheck leaves Beka Liluashvili’s statement without a verdict.

Analysis

For Georgia party MP, Beka Liluashvili, spoke about migration of the working-age population at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia. As stated by Mr Liluashvili: “Last year, 99,974 people, including over 85,000 people of the age of 15-20 years left the country. To leave no room for speculation, last year there was a biggest net migration since 2012.”

FactCheck verified accuracy of Mr Liluashvili’s statement.

First and foremost, whilst speaking on migration figures it is relevant to analyse net migration; that is, the difference between emigrants and immigrants. According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, net migration in 2021 was negative. In other words, 25,996 more people left the country as compared to those who entered.

In 2021, 99,974 persons emigrated from Georgia. Of this amount, 73,943 were from the age of 15 to 50 years. In the same period, the number of migrants; that is, those who entered/returned to Georgia was 74,008 and only 47,242 were from the age of 15 to 50 years.

Generally, it is the working-age and the reproductive-age population which constitutes most of the flow of emigration and this is a natural process. However, in case of developing countries, emigration is largely stipulated by the socio-economic situation. In addition, a high negative net migration brings a number of demographic challenges for a country such as a shrinking workforce, a lower fertility rate and a decrease in population.

Graph 1: Net Migration, Thousand

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Migration is one of the biggest challenges of the country. According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the external net migration rate has been negative since 1994, meaning that more people leave the country every year than come into it. The year 2020 was an exception in this regard with a positive net migration (15,372) which was attributable to the pandemic and the shutting down of the borders. When international borders were re-opened in 2021, emigration increased sharply whilst immigration (people who come to Georgia) decreased.

Prior to 2012, migration flows were not properly registered and figures before that are mostly based on assessments. Since 2012 (when Georgia started to properly register migration flows), highest negative net migration was registered in 2021. However, a comparison of the net migration figures of 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic period to the those of the previous years does not provide an objective reality. As mentioned earlier, the positive net migration in 2020 was an outcome of emigrants coming back to Georgia amid the pandemic and the shutting down of the borders. Re-opening the borders in 2021 was logically followed by sharp growth in migration flows. The 2021 migration figures also include those people who were unable to emigrate because of closed borders in 2020 or who temporarily came to Georgia in the same year and could not return abroad because of border issues.

Therefore, FactCheck leaves Beka Liluashvili’s statement that there was a record high negative net migration in 2021 without a verdict. However, FactCheck also endorses the context of the MP’s statement that the emigration of the country’s working-age population is indeed one of Georgia’s biggest challenges.

[1] In accordance with the methodology of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, a person is considered an emigrant if he left Georgia in the last 12 months, stayed in another country for at least 183 days and his permanent place of residence prior to leaving the country was Georgia. A person is considered an immigrant if he spent at least 183 days in Georgia after crossing the border and prior to crossing the border, Georgia was not a place of his permanent residence. Both emigrants and immigrants could be either Georgian citizens or citizens of foreign countries


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