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Unemployment benefits to be established?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, October 12
Incoming Minister of Labour, Healthcare and Social Protection Amiran Gamkrelidze suggested that unemployment benefits will be established in Georgia.

Gamkrelidze spoke about the issue on TV programme Reziume on October 10th. According to Gamkrelidze establishing unemployment benefits are very important.

“It is just a form of insurance and one part of a common social insurance,” Gamkrelidze said.

He did not name a specific amount which an unemployed individual might receive but added that the issue will be discussed in the near future.

“This issue is linked to labor and employment policy and the government should make a decision concerning the topic.” Gamkrelidze said.

Unemployment has been cited in various polls as one of the major concerns of the Georgian population. As soon as Gamkrelidze's proposal was announced it immediately attracted public interest. When benefits will begin, how much will be paid, and who will be eligible were among the questions asked on various online forums.

Economic analyst Shota Murghulia assessed the step positively, adding that unemployment benefits exist in every democratic country.

“There are various schemes in this regard used in different countries. It is important which scheme will be adopted in Georgia. It requires lots of consultations and observation,” Murghulia stated.

However, Murghulia told The Messenger that Gamkrelidze’s statement might have been interpreted differently than the incoming minister intended. According to the analyst Gamkrelidze meant that unemployment benefits will begin in several years' time, not in the immediate future.

The analyst stressed that establishing unemployment benefits needs time, at least 3-4 years.

“If someone thinks that he/she will be given unemployment benefits starting this year they are mistaken."

Murghulia also stated that the amount of money which unemployed people receive should be clearly defined. According to Murghulia the sum should be “sensible” and should not encourage the unemployed to sit at home and do nothing.

“The compensation should be enough to cover utilities and other necessary costs of living. It should be temporary and should encourage the unemployed to find some job as soon as possible,” Murghulia stated.

The analyst added that currently the state has no financial resources to allocate funds for unemployment benefits “especially when half of Georgia is practically unemployed, thus I consider that establishing such innovation in Georgia requires several years."

Analyst Nika Chitadze shares Murghulia's view and stated that the promises given to people should be realistic and based on the state budget.

“Of course it is important to assist the unemployed. However there should be enough funds in the state budget for this. Georgian Dream has already made promises which require huge amounts of money, like free health insurance, pension increases and so on. Thus, there are various issues which should be taken into consideration before making statements about unemployment benefits as well.” Chitadze told The Messenger. Chitadze added that Georgian Dream should take Greece and Spain's experience into consideration. Both countries’ state budgets were oriented towards social spending but as a result of the economic downturn social spending was cut. This resulted in huge public dissatisfaction and eventually the ruling party was voted out of office.