What is Important for Getting a Good Job in the South Caucasus?

Paid work is one of the most common forms of social activity, and opinions about the mechanisms regulating labour force participation can reveal beliefs on how social life works in general. This post examines what factors people in the South Caucasus consider to be most important to get a good job. Belief in the role of meritocratic factors is strongest in Georgia across all labour market categories. On average, Azerbaijanis attribute more value to social networks, and this answer is most popular among the unemployed. Armenians attach similar weight to both of these factors. However, unlike in the other two countries, personal traits also seem to play a role there. More detailed analysis shows existing within-country differences in the distribution of answers across four labour market categories.
This post is pivoted around a question from the 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) about factors that facilitate getting a good job in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Such factors reflect wider beliefs about what is needed to be recruited into the labour-force – an issue important in the South Caucasus region which is trapped by high unemployment. Three categories of distinctive factors encompass collapsed answer items as follows: meritocratic criterion (education, hard work, talent, professional abilities and work experience), social networks (connections and doing favours for the ‘right’ people), and personal traits (age and appearance). A fourth distinctive factor, entirely beyond individual control, is luck.

Georgians are most likely to believe that getting a good job is based on meritocratic merits, such as professional experience or education. Azerbaijanis put more weight on the importance of social networks and meritocratic achievements come second on the list. However, the results are opposite when the unemployed are excluded from the sample. Armenians seem to be in between the two countries in terms of their assessment of these factors; the importance of meritocratic merits and social networks is viewed similarly. Armenians are also relatively most likely to attribute success in getting a good job to personal traits such as age or appearance. Out of the three countries Georgians are most likely to put an emphasis on luck.
More detailed analyses show important within-country differences in the perception of factors facilitating getting a good job. These differences are related to status within the labour market: student, employed, unemployed and self-employed. Although students formally are not qualified as ‘active’ in the labour market, they are included in this analysis as a group that constitutes the future labour force and who also shape normative assessments of labour regulating-mechanisms.
Meritocratic criteria were perceived as most important by students in Azerbaijan and Georgia (56% and 69%, respectively), but what is interesting is that students in Armenia pointed to social networks more often than meritocratic factors (51% versus 46%). Social networks were also perceived as most important by the unemployed Armenians, and of similar importance to meritocratic criterion for the employed part of the population. Only self-employed Armenians attached significantly more importance to the meritocratic criterion.
Those who are employed in Azerbaijan put meritocratic issues first, and only those who are unemployed attribute getting a good job mostly to social networks, while social networks and meritocratic factors are considered relatively equal for the self-employed people. In Georgia all categories attach greatest importance to meritocratic criteria.

Perceptions of what it takes to get a good job provides important information about whether people think they can do something to change their condition or if they think situational or environmental factors are more important.
For more information on factors which are considered to be most important for getting a good job in the South Caucasus please see our previous post on the CRRC blog.