Economy
Posted: 3 years ago

Country of Dying Village

Easter in Georgia is not only a religious holiday, but a day when the country confronts one of its sharpest problems, which it does not in other periods, even during the New Year.

The capital is empty on Easter. Internal migrants from the regions and villages leave the capital city for 2-3 days. At this time, Tbilisi becomes unusually empty, and traffic jams move from Tbilisi’s streets to the East-West highway.

At this time, it becomes apparent that Georgia has  become a country with one big city, where all the citizens flee to, and the regions and villages are doomed to gradual depopulation.

Today, there are three categories of internal migrants: 1. Those with the required knowledge and skills. They have managed to become fully-integrated in the society. They live an urban life, work in private business and government structures, and many of them achieve success, sometimes, more success than most city residents.

However, there is a second category, which performs the same function in Georgia as foreign migrants do in developed countries. They work at construction sites, enterprises, mainly as artisans, and they work for automobile services and other places, where urban residents are less likely to be employed.

There is also a third category, the most vulnerable segment  – market and street sellers, who work for decades without progress or changes in their knowledge and skills.  

All these developments take place in the regions amid a growing demographic catastrophe –everybody flees the small towns and villages in an endless process.

However, we can highlight this issue from another angle, too. Today’s world is a world of big cities. The majority population lives in cities in all developed countries and the more developed the country, the less population is found in villages.

In Georgia, 42% of the population resides in villages, but, only according to official statistics. In reality, the majority of those registered in villages have long moved to cities without any formal procedures.

These statistical indicators seem less trustworthy, and this consideration is proved by reports from 1989, according to which 48% of the population lived in villages. Therefore, it is unlikely  that,  after 30 years of cataclysms and large-scale internal and foreign migrations, this indicator narrowed by only 6%. This is an absurdity.

In reality, no more than 30% of the population live in villages. However, even this figure is not a minor indicator of the present situation. On the contrary.

For example, in countries like Belgium, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, the USA and Finland, the ratio of village residents in the total population makes up 10%-15%. Higher indicators are reported in Greece, Germany, Spain, France – 20%-25%.

 

Indicators similar to Georgia are recorded in countries such as Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Croatia (57-60%). For example, in Poland, the majority of village residents are employed in the agrarian sector, and the remainder works in small and medium industries.

The number of village residents narrows dramatically in developing economies, too; for instance, Argentina (19%), Uruguay (5%), Brazil (14%), Iran (25%), Russia (27%) and so on.

 At the same time, in developed countries, the ratio of people employed in the rural sector is declining, and this indicator is at 1% in the USA, 1.6% in Germany, 2% in Great Britain, 3% in Denmark, 4% in Norway, 5% in Netherlands, 5.6% in Italy, 10% in Argentina, 15% in Poland and 20% in Serbia,.

In this respect, Georgia has a very bad ratio – 50%, as this figure is equal to the indicators of the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  

The Inefficiency of the agricultural sector is another challenge, as in his respect Georgia comes behind of undeveloped countries of Africa.

In developed and developing economies, only a small fraction of citizens are employed in the agrarian sector, and this category mostly composed of a privileged strata of farmers - they own huge areas of land, apply cutting-edge technologies, and have much larger incomes compared to city residents.

We have a different reality in Georgia, where the Georgian villages  remains in the 19th century with a natural economy, small plots and low efficiency. As a result, the country imports 70% of its agricultural products.

This happens when, in developed countries, the social category of  the peasant disappeared many decades ago,  and the peasant remains only in extremely weak countries.

In this situation, there is nothing special and threatening about the depopulation of Georgian villages – all developed countries have gone through this.

 In the end, Georgian village will be reduced to a certain level, to an optimal point.

The problem consists in another other aspect entirely, as all internal migrants head for only one city – Tbilisi. Newcomers from villages and regions cannot find new jobs.

Rapid economic growth has always inspired internal migration in industrial countries. But in Georgia, there is no developed industry in practice. Moreover, the majority of newcomers from villages and regions have no profession, no required skills.

The country is in a certain blind alley – villages are emptied, because it is impossible to live there, while internal migrants do not have chances to find jobs in Tbilisi, and they do not possess the required knowledge.

By Tengiz Ablotia