The COVID-19 pandemic and related stringent restrictions inflicted a heavy blow to the economy of Georgia which was directly affected the socio-economic standing of domestic households. Loss of jobs and income amid the pandemic turned out to be a particularly acute problem which caused impoverishment.

Poverty has been the major challenge for Georgia long before the pandemic with nearly one-fifth (19.5%) of the population living in absolute poverty. In addition, a large part of the Georgian population is extremely vulnerable and only marginally above the poverty line. Therefore, the pandemic-induced economic crisis massively affected the population bordering the poverty line. According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the absolute poverty level increased by 1.8 percentage points to 21.3% in 2020 which means that more than 69,000 people dropped below the absolute poverty line.

Graph 1: Absolute Poverty Level

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

The poverty level has increased in every age category, although child poverty is especially high. Some 26.4% of children and adolescents in the 0-17 year age group lives below absolute poverty line whilst this figure was 24.4% prior to the pandemic.

The rural population is more vulnerable vis-à-vis poverty amid the pandemic as the share of the population living below the absolute poverty line increased from 23.7% to 27.5%. The quality of life has deteriorated in urban settlements as well, although not at as much as in rural areas.

Graph 2: Share of Population Below the Absolute Poverty Line (%)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Social transfers disbursed amid the pandemic have slowed down the pace of the growth of poverty somewhat, although poverty has still sharply increased. This indicates that a large part of the population, which currently does not live in absolute poverty, faces risks of impoverishment. At the same time, social protection measures taken during the crisis period were insufficient and, therefore, a massive growth of poverty was inevitable.

The National Statistics Office of Georgia together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) carried out monitoring of the COVID-19 impact on the prosperity of domestic households in real time. According to the survey: “From March to December 2020, 53% of households had their average monthly income decreased, during the period from January to June 2021 some 37.4% of households had their income decreased whilst during the period from July to October 2021 the average monthly income of 16.1% of households decreased followed by the decreased incomes of 8.8% of households in November 2021.” The COVID-19 pandemic and associated major circumstances were identified as the main reason behind reduced incomes since companies or businesses which members of domestic households owned or where they worked faced plunging demands. The results of the survey illustrate that under the national lockdown and the stringent economic restrictions, over half of domestic households had their incomes decreased at the initial stage of the pandemic. However, some domestic households still saw the dynamic of their incomes being decreased in the subsequent period when economic restrictions were relaxed.