Jobs and Figures: Officials say unemployment rate slightly down, but definition of “unemployed” distorts real picture
According to Artak Simonyan, the deputy head of the SES, unemployment in Armenia in January this year is 6 percent, a one percentage point down from its level a year ago.
“Fighting unemployment we fight against poverty. With our scarce resources we try to alleviate the heavy socio-economic situation, but we see the need for the state to develop an employment strategy,” says Simonyan, adding that the Service carries out numerous and various programs, but their scope remains small.
These programs target people with limited capabilities, young people and women. Among them are vocational training, compensation of salary, work experience acquisition programs, as well as job fairs and paid public work.
According to official data, as of January 1, 2012, the number of registered jobseekers in Armenia is nearly 82,000, of whom only about 70,000 have the status of unemployed. That is, about 6 percent of the able-bodied population in Armenia is unemployed.
According to the National Statistical Service of Armenia, Armenia’s population is 3.2 million, according to various experts’ estimations, it could be 2.5-2.9 million.
The official unemployment rate differs from the real unemployment rate, 19 percent, which is estimated due to the methodology of the International Employment Agency (IEA).
The reason for such a difference is that according to laws in Armenia only able-bodied people seeking jobs and registered with the SES are considered unemployed, while the IEA’s rate is based on the estimation of the real number of jobseekers in the country through surveys.
Senior expert at the Armenian Center for National and International Studies Hovsep Khurshudyan says the low unemployment level is registered because many are not aware that they are supposed to be registered with state employment service centers.
“And those who are aware, do not apply, because the unemployment benefit is so small that people do not even bother. Meanwhile, by registering with these centers they would not only help create a real picture, but would first of all help themselves, as by doing that they may find a job,” he says.
The amount of a monthly unemployment benefit is 18,000 (about $45), which is paid for a maximum of one year and for a minimum of six months.
According to experts, one of the reasons why people do not apply to the SES is the huge amount of paperwork, as they have to submit five documents to be considered job seekers and eight documents to be considered unemployed.
Khurshudyan says that hidden employment is also considered in estimating the unemployment rate.
“In any case, the official unemployment rate of about 6 percent has nothing to do with the reality, even if it allows for hidden unemployment. Our government is after scoring high on international ratings, but such a policy on employment matters has nothing to do with statesmanship,” adds the expert.
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