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SJC: Pro-Government Media Manipulates Statistical Data on Poverty

On May 30, the Social Justice Center issued a statement stressing that the pro-Government media is “manipulating” the data released by the National Statistical Service on the decrease in the absolute poverty rate in 2023 and is deceiving Georgians, claiming that 145,000 people escaped poverty, when in fact the decrease is most likely caused by the record number of emigrants in 2023, as well as the increase in the number of people receiving social assistance and of people living on remittances.

SJC notes that Geostat’s recent data only shows what part of Georgia’s current population is in absolute poverty and does not say anything about the bases and reasons for this indicator. The organization notes that the rate may have decreased not because people actually escaped poverty, but because more than 163,000 people left Georgia last year, most of them with the aim of escaping poverty, which would naturally lower the percentage.

The organization also emphasizes that two additional factors could influence the rate. The first is the nearly 660,000 people in Georgia who receive and live on state social assistance. Receiving this assistance means that a person is considered to be above the poverty line, but living on this money doesn’t mean that they are no longer poor. Second, the vast majority of Georgians currently live on remittances sent by family members who have emigrated. According to data published by the National Bank of Georgia, $4 billion was sent to Georgia in remittances in 2023.

SJC also highlighted that when discussing poverty and social inequality, other indicators such as the Gini coefficient and relative poverty are also used. The organization notes that the analysis of these two indicators shows that the situation has not improved, but has worsened in certain areas.

For example, when looking at relative poverty, which indicates that the share of the population that consumes less than 60% of the median consumer expenditure, decreased by only 0.1% and amounted to 19.8% in 2023. “It should be emphasized that relative poverty in rural areas increased by 0.2% and reached 26.8%, which once again highlights the particular vulnerability of our fellow citizens living in the regions and the weakness and fragmentation of social protection policies,” – notes SJC.

At the same time, the Gini coefficient, which is a statistical measure of income or wealth inequality within a nation or social group, increased by two points and equaled the rate of 2020. This means that social inequality in the country increased in 2023, notes the watchdog.

“To this day, the state does not have a fair and human rights-based social policy that would create opportunities for a decent life for the people of our country. Instead of real reforms, the government maintains a system that makes the population dependent on welfare and continues to use this dependence and social issues in general, as political instruments” – SJC concludes.

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