Outward Bound: Emigration stats don’t match reality specialists say
Armenian political analysts and economists consider controversial the latest out-migration figures published by the National Statistical Service (NSS) that suggest that fewer people left the country in 2013 than in previous years.
According to the statistics, the number of people who entered Armenia in 2013 made a total of 1,452,085, while the number of those who departed from the country totaled 1,494,086. The negative balance thus stands at 42,001 people, which is by 7,659 less than in 2012 (-49,660), which means that the rate of out-migration in 2013 slowed down as compared to the previous years.
According to the NSS data, passenger traffic by air was down 0.3 percent, which shows no negative balance, but instead the negative balance is present at the land checkpoints at the Armenian-Georgian border that people cross by buses or minibuses as a less expensive and suitable way of traveling for families.
According to the 2013 data a total of 39,726 citizens left the country through the Bagratashen checkpoint as compared to 21,144 in 2012. The figures for the Bavra checkpoint in 2013 and 2012 made 13,000 and 8,288, respectively.
“The population shrinks and the outmigration is calculated from that reduced number. If it continues like that and there is barely a population left in Armenia to emigrate, for example, in 10 years, I assure you that the outmigration rate will be down to 10,000-15,000,” former prime minister, now opposition lawmaker Hrant Bagratyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Demographers say that while in the past unemployment and poor economic conditions were a valid reason for outmigration, then today despair, lack of confidence in the future in many cases come as the primary cause of emigration, people no longer believe that their children can have a good future in their homeland.
“Recently moral and psychological reasons have become more significant for people. It can also be observed within individual surroundings, in private conversations, many feel that way, they feel frustrated, which is connected with the moral and psychological situation in the country. No tendency for change or improvement of this situation can be observed yet,” demographer Ruben Yeganyan says.
A majority of emigrants are outraged by the inequality of opportunities to undertake economic activity in the country, injustices and exploitation of hired labor.
“People understand the objective difficulties of Armenia, such as the blockade, a constant threat of war, objective difficulties of carrying out economic activities. But they no longer understand that these objective reasons are applicable only to some. A biological instinct of a ‘closed area’ is used, in this case those participating in the government of the country maul those who do not,” ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan told ArmeniaNow.
According to her, it is possible to curb emigration if all people are equal to law, if no one hinders them to live, work and create. If people get help in doing all that, according to Kharatyan, then miracles can happen even in ‘closed areas’.
“Even in a blockaded Armenia the socio-economic climate will be changed if those in the government are guided by the principle of protecting the rights and equality of opportunity in our country. Ten percent of our country’s population is involved in the government system. The already scarce resources are directed at the maintenance of that 10 percent. This is an abnormal phenomenon. On the one hand there is an inflated government apparatus that siphons out the last resources of the people, on the other hand the government itself is an obstacle,” says the ethnographer.
Government officials in Armenia have long downplayed the rate of emigration from the country, insisting that many of those who do go outside for migrant work remain very much attached to their homeland and participate in its economic life by wiring back home vital cash remittances.
While acknowledging the presence of social and economic problems in the country that make a certain number of people seek better opportunities abroad, in one interview last year President Serzh Sargsyan accused certain media of creating an improper atmosphere that he implied contributed to people’s despair and eventual decisions to leave.
By Gayane Mkrtchyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter