3. Labour market outcomes of Georgian emigrants

Among the 190 500 Georgian emigrants of working age (between 15 and 64 years old) in OECD countries, 70% participated in the labour market in 2015/16, meaning almost a third were inactive. This participation rate was lower than for emigrants from other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the overall foreign-born population of working age. It was also lower than the participation rate of the native population by 2 percentage points. Nevertheless, although Georgian emigrants’ participation rate is almost on par with other comparison groups, it hides substantially lower employment rates. Indeed, only 55% were employed in 2015/2016, a rate 10 to 12 percentage points lower than for the reference group from Central Asia, the foreign-born and native-born populations in OECD countries. This high vulnerability among Georgian emigrants in the labour market reflects high unemployment rates: one out of five active emigrants is unemployed (22%). Such unemployment rate was more than twice the rate for the foreign-born and the native-born populations (9.5%).

As presented in Figure 3.1, in 2015/16, employment rates of Georgian emigrants varied substantially from one destination to another. Less than half of Georgian emigrants were employed in six of the main destination countries. In France and Turkey, the sixth and third main destinations, 33% and 37% of Georgian emigrants were employed.

In Greece, top OECD destination country, 47% of Georgian emigrants were employed in 2015/16 but dealt with high unemployment and inactivity rates (34% and 29%, respectively). However, the Greek economic situation differs substantially from the two former countries as the employment levels of the native-born were only 4 percentage points higher than for Georgian emigrants (+31 and +13 percentage points in France and Turkey, respectively). More than half of the Georgian emigrant population was employed in Eastern European countries, but the rates remained significantly lower compared to the native population.1 In Spain, employment rates were slightly higher, with 62% of Georgian emigrants employed compared to 60% of the native-born population.

In Italy, where most of Georgian emigrants are women (81% of the working-age population), 71% were employed in 2015/2016, a rate 15 percentage points higher than among the native-born. The majority of the non-working Georgian population between 15 and 64 years old were inactive rather than unemployed in Italy.

In Israel, the second main OECD destination, and in the United States, employment rates were among the highest, as three-quarters of the working-age population were employed in 2015/2016. In the former country, the employment rate exceeded that of the native-born by 11 percentage points and by 6 percentage points in the United States. Unemployment rates were also similar in both countries affecting 6.5% of active Georgian emigrants.

Georgian emigrants’ situation in the labour market also differs from the situation of the average emigrant to the OECD area (Figure 3.2). In France, Turkey and Greece, employment rates were lower than those observed among the foreign-born. France presents the largest employment gap, with an employment rate among the foreign-born that is 22 percentage points higher than for Georgian emigrants. The employment rates of emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries were also higher by 5 percentage points. In Turkey and Greece, the employment rate among Georgian emigrants was marginally lower than for the Central Asian countries but remained significantly lower than the employment rate among the foreign-born.

Israel is a particular case as Georgian emigrants present higher employment rates than native-born, but fare worse than the foreign-born population. The higher educational attainment of migrants, including those from Georgia, offers a partial explanation for the better insertion in the Israeli labour market as it is further analysed below.

In Spain, Italy, and the United States, the employment rates of Georgian emigrants exceeded those of emigrants from selected Central Asian and Caucasian countries by at least 9 percentage points and those of the foreign-born by 4 percentage points in Spain and the United States. Italy constitutes a very particular case to the extent that the employment rate of Georgian emigrants exceeded that of the foreign-born and native-born populations by 12 and 15 percentage points, respectively.

These results hold with more recent data from the United States and Italy. Indeed, based on 2017/2019 data for the United States and 2017/2020 for Italy, employment rates among Georgian emigrants are substantially higher than among the foreign-born. The gap even widens in Italy: 80% of Georgian emigrants are employed compared to 60 and 58% of the foreign and native-born. This latter result is driven by women’s rate of employment, related, in turn, to their high concentration in personal care occupations, as analysed below.

Results from recent data also underline the role that the duration of stay plays in the insertion of Georgian emigrants into the American and Italian labour markets. As shown in Figure 3.3, the longer they have resided in these countries, the higher their employment rates. Indeed, less than two-thirds of Georgian emigrants living in Italy (62%) or the United States (69%) for five years or less are employed, 28% are inactive and 4 to 9% are unemployed. This latter rate declines significantly when they have spent more than five years in both countries. Similarly, employment rates increase by more than 13 and 20 percentage points in the United States and Italy as the duration of stay increases. Employment rates stabilise at around 80% over ten years of residence in these countries. Nonetheless, the acquisition of the host country’s citizenship does not seem to be an advantage in accessing the labour markets in both countries, contrary to the experience of migrants from other countries (at least in the United States).

Regarding non-OECD destination countries, available data show that in the Russian Federation, where the Georgian-born population of working age is more than twice as numerous as in all OECD countries combined, 63% of Georgian emigrants were employed in 2010/11. Although this country’s economy did not recover fully from the 2008 financial crisis, Georgian emigrants’ employment rates remained lower than for emigrants from Caucasian and Central Asian countries and for the native-born population (-5 and -4 percentage points). This gap was even larger when compared to the overall immigrant population, whose employment rate reached 69%. Furthermore, in 2010/11, inactivity rates were significantly higher for the Georgian-born population. One-third of Georgian-born emigrants were inactive. Typical individual characteristics of Georgian migrants should not explain these heterogeneities as no major differences in education levels or duration of stay between these different groups of immigrants are observed.

Between 2010/2011 and 2015/2016, the labour market situation of Georgian emigrants in the OECD area improved marginally, as shown in Figure 3.4. Indeed, their employment rate increased by 2 percentage points, from 53 to 55%. It followed the same evolution as the employment rate of the foreign-born population. While the increase is relatively higher than for the native-born population (+1 percentage point), employment rates among Georgian emigrants remained substantially lower than among the native-born population by 10 percentage points.

The evolution of Georgian emigrants’ employment rates varies significantly across destination countries, reflecting the different stages of economic recovery in the aftermath of the 2008 global recession and the 2010 European debt crisis (Figure 3.5). In Turkey and Greece, markedly affected by the recession, Georgian emigrants’ employment rates have remained relatively stable since 2010 (at the low levels of 37% and 47%, respectively). In Turkey, the employment gap with the native-born population widened.

In Italy, still very much affected by a restrictive fiscal policy and high-interest rates, the share of Georgian emigrants in employment fell by 5 percentage points compared to 2010/11 (77%). Even if this downturn concerned the foreign-born and native populations, it affected Georgian emigrants to a much larger extent, the drop being five times higher than for all migrants. This decline in employment rates did not reflect an increase in the unemployment rate among the Georgian emigrants in 2015/2016, but an increase in inactivity (+8 percentage points). Nevertheless, the inactivity rate of Georgian emigrants in Italy remained lower than among the foreign and native-born by 6 and 12 percentage points, respectively. The employment rate decreased to a similar extent in France (- 6 percentage points).

Spain, the United States and Israel witnessed the highest increases in employment rates among the main OECD destination countries but followed relatively different trajectories compared to the foreign- and native-born populations (Figure 3.5). In Israel, Georgian emigrants’ employment trajectory followed the same path as both the foreign and native-born populations. In Spain, which is one of the most affected countries by the Eurozone crisis, the employment rate of Georgian emigrants increased by 15 percentage points. This positive evolution also applies to the foreign-born and emigrants from Central Asian and Caucasian countries. This pattern resulted in employment rates among Georgian emigrants exceeding those of the native-born by 2 percentage points. The convergence in employment rates between foreign and native-born populations in Spain is partially explained by the growth in the foreign-born population of working age as the driver of total working-age population growth in Spain, given that the native-born population continues to age (Defensor del Pueblo, 2020[1]).

In the United States, the employment rate of Georgian emigrants increased by 13 percentage points between 2010/11 and 2015/16, at a much higher pace than for emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries, the foreign- and native-born populations. While the employment rate of Georgian emigrants was lower than the foreign-born’s in 2010/11, it exceeded it in 2015/16 by 4 percentage points.

Foreign-born women face a double challenge in the labour market of their destination country as they face both the general gender inequalities in the labour market and the obstacles of being an immigrant (OECD, 2020[2]). For Georgian emigrants, the overall increase in employment rates in 2015/16 was mainly driven by male emigrants’ improved access to the labour market. While the gender employment gap in OECD countries was relatively narrow in 2010/11 at 2%, it widened in 2015/16 to 6% (Figure 3.6). The employment rate of female Georgian emigrants increased by only 1 percentage point to 53% versus 5 percentage points (59%) for their male counterparts. The fact that recent Georgian emigration is mainly female should partially explain this trend. Indeed, more than 80% of the Georgian emigrants that arrived between 2010 and 2015 in OECD countries were women who emigrated notably due to unfavourable local cultural norms regarding women’s role in the household and difficult labour market conditions (Hofmann and Buckley, 2011[3]). As seen in the cases of the United States and Italy above, emigrants face more obstacles in integrating into the destination’s labour market in the first years after arrival.

Nevertheless, the gender employment gap was still substantially narrower than for emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries, foreign- and native-born populations of OECD countries. The difference in employment rates between female and male emigrants, regardless of the country of birth, was almost three times higher than for Georgian emigrants. The employment rates of female Georgian emigrants remain lower than their native-born counterparts by 5 percentage points.

The overall gender employment gap among Georgian emigrants hides some important discrepancies across destination countries (Figure 3.7). These differences mainly stem from differences in employment sectors between men and women (Vanore and Siegel, 2015[4]).

The gender employment gap is almost null in Greece, France and Israel. Israel stands out as Georgian female emigrants had a similar employment rate (77%) to that of the foreign-born female population, which was only 3 percentage points lower than the foreign-born male population. Women born in Georgia were also likelier to be employed than their native-born counterparts, regardless of their sex. In Greece, the gender employment gap among Georgian emigrants was significantly lower than for the foreign-born and native-born population (+20 points). Almost half (47%) of female Georgian emigrants were employed, a rate 5 percentage points higher than the one observed among native-born women.

The United States presents the highest gender employment gap: 69% of women born in Georgia were employed in 2017/2019 versus 84% of men. Educational attainment or duration of stay do not account for differences in employment rates. Although the gender employment gap is significant, women born in Georgia remain employed at similar rates as the native-born women, whose employment rate is 5 percentage points lower than their male counterparts.

Spain and Italy present a gender employment gap favouring Georgian women: 73% of Georgia-born women were employed in 2015/16 versus 44% of men. According to the most recent available data, female Georgian emigrants’ employment rate is 27 percentage points higher than their male counterparts in Italy. Women born in Georgia are likelier to be employed than foreign-born and native women; employment rates even reach higher levels than native-born men in both countries. Education levels of Georgia-born women were substantially higher than men’s. In Italy, where women represent 89% of the Georgian diaspora in 2017/19, their average duration of stay is also substantially longer than it is for men, affecting insertion into the labour market.

As expected, Georgian migrants benefit from better insertion into the labour market as their education level increases (Figure 3.8). More than half (60%) of those with a high education level were employed in 2015/16. This share drops by 4 percentage points for those with a medium education level, which corresponds to an upper secondary education. It lowers by another 11 percentage points (45%) for those with low level of education (lower secondary at most).

Georgian emigrants fared worse than the foreign- and native-born populations at all education levels. Employment levels were lower than emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries. Georgian emigrants were also more vulnerable as their unemployment rate was significantly higher than for the foreign- or native-born populations.

At low levels of education, Georgian emigrants were working in the same proportion as the native-born population. The latter result should be interpreted with caution, as the usual minimum level of education requested in OECD countries is higher than lower secondary education. Those with a medium education level born in Georgia were 11 percentage points less often in employment than the foreign and native-born populations. The gap enlarged further for those with a high level of education, as they were 17 and 23 percentage points less often in employment than all high-educated foreign and native-born, respectively.

These lower employment levels can be partly explained by various barriers Georgian emigrants face in their OECD destination countries, notably the potential lack of language skills and employment record, and inadequacy between the qualifications provided by the Georgian education system and the European standards. This result holds in most of the main destination countries. However, levels of insertion into the labour market per education level differ from one country to another.

Higher employment rates of Georgian emigrants who attended tertiary education hide high inadequacy between their occupations and their qualification level (Box 3.1). In OECD countries, 60% of tertiary-educated emigrants born in Georgia held a position that required less skills than they actually had in 2015/16 (Figure 3.9). This share was significantly higher than for high-educated emigrants born in selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries and the native-born population (45 and 29%, respectively). Tertiary-educated Georgian women are more overqualified than their male counterparts (48 and 28%, respectively) and the gap is larger than among the foreign-born population.

The low employment rate of Georgian emigrants in OECD countries, at all education levels, makes any analysis of over-qualification rates per destination country very sensitive from one data source to the other. Nevertheless, the share of overqualified Georgian emigrants appears to vary substantially from one country to the other. In Greece, 78% of Georgian emigrants were overqualified, a result confirmed by mixed-methods research (ICMPD, 2014[5]), while it concerned half of the Georgian-born population with a high level of education in Israel.

In the United States, over-qualification concerns almost half of the high-educated Georgian emigrants in 2017/19 (48%). It corresponds to a share of 8 percentage points higher than for all emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries and 14 percentage points higher than for foreign- and native-born populations. Contrary to the OECD trend, men tend to be more overqualified than women: 52% of men born in Georgia were overqualified versus 44% of women. Different factors can explain lower over-qualification in the United States, including longer duration of stay, acquisition of citizenship and having attended tertiary education in the United States. Indeed, as shown in Figure 3.10, the share of overqualified Georgian emigrants decreases almost linearly the longer the time they spend in the country. More than two-thirds of those living in the United States for less than five years are overqualified, lowering to 44% and 30% for those settled for more than 10 and 20 years, respectively. Relatedly, the acquisition of American citizenship improves access to high-skilled jobs: 34% of Georgia-born Americans are overqualified, compared to 64% of Georgian emigrants without the American citizenship. This result holds when controlling for the duration of stay. Employers’ recognition of tertiary education quality also plays an important role in accessing high-skilled positions. Only 21% of Georgian emigrants who attended college or university in the United States are overqualified, compared to 52% of those who arrived after the age of 18.

This inadequacy between occupations and skills reflects in an overrepresentation of Georgian immigrant workers in low- and medium-skilled occupations in 2015/16. As presented in Figure 3.11, nearly a third of the Georgian population of working age held a service or sales occupation (32%). This share was twice as high as it was for foreign- or native-born workers. A quarter of Georgia-born workers with a high level of education occupied such positions (26%), only 2 percentage points lower than low-educated Georgian emigrants.

14% of the Georgia-born workforce held a personal care-related occupation, with substantial differences between men and women. Two-fifths of women held a service or sales position, more than double the share of their male counterparts (16%). Less than 1% of male Georgian emigrants were personal care workers, compared to 21% of women. Georgia-born men held mainly sales (6%), protective services (4%) and personal service (4%) positions.

A quarter of working Georgian emigrants held an elementary occupation (27%), almost three times more often than native-born workers. Most of them were cleaners and helpers, corresponding to the first position occupied by Georgian emigrants in OECD countries (the United States excluded) in 2015/16. Again, Georgia-born women occupied such positions at higher rates than men. Most women in elementary positions were helpers and cleaners (29% of all women working). High-educated Georgian emigrants also held such positions in high proportions (19% of them were helpers or cleaners).

Conversely, Georgian migrants in OECD countries were underrepresented in high-skilled jobs in 2015/16. Indeed, only 7% of them held a scientific or intellectual position, mainly as health professionals (3%). It corresponded to half the share of emigrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries. Another 7% of them were technicians or associate professionals. Including managerial positions, less than 20% occupied a high-skilled position. Georgian women occupied high-skilled positions at lower rates than their male counterparts, but the difference was marginal (21% and 17%, respectively). As expected, high-educated emigrants occupied such positions at higher rates: a third held high-skilled positions while the share for those with a low and middle level of education did not exceed 10%.

Craft and related trades occupations concentrate 11% of Georgian emigrants, and plant and machine operations and assemblage an additional 6%. In such occupations, men are employed at higher rates than women (39% versus 3%). Georgian emigrants with low or medium education levels occupied these positions more often than high-educated ones. Only 4% of Georgian who attended tertiary education held a position as plant and machine operator or assembler.

The distribution of working Georgian emigrants by types of occupations differs across destination countries (Figure 3.12). However, in the main destination countries, they remained largely concentrated in elementary and services and sales occupations. In Greece, 38% of Georgia-born workers held an elementary occupation in 2015/16, three-quarters of whom occupied a position of cleaner or helper. According to ICMDP (2014[5]), these positions rarely abide by the law. Consequently, Georgia-born domestic workers are often subject to exploitative conditions, with little legal recourse at their disposal. A quarter of working Georgian emigrants in Greece are services and sales workers. One Georgian emigrant out of ten occupies a high-skilled position, half of them as professionals.

In Israel, 31% of Georgian emigrants occupied high-skilled positions, 25% as professionals or associate professionals. These numbers were close to those observed for Georgia-born workers in France. Services and sales occupations concentrate 31% of Georgian migrants in Israel and 19% in France. In both countries, less than 20% of workers born in Georgia held an elementary occupation. Although no recent data are available for Turkey, IMCPD (2014[5]) research suggests that a significant share of Georgian migrants occupy seasonal positons in agricultural plantations.

In Italy, 2015/16 and 2017/20 data confirm the concentration of Georgian emigrants in services and sales occupations. About two-thirds of Georgian emigrants are personal care workers. More specifically, a large number work as caretakers of the elderly or the disabled (ICMPD, 2019[6]). Women (72%) mainly occupy these jobs, whereas the very large majority of men occupy elementary occupations (about 80%). Almost no Georgian emigrants work in high-skilled positions in Italy.

In the United States, Georgian emigrants primarily hold transportation and moving materials occupations (mainly men): 13% declared working in transportation-related jobs in 2015/16 and in 2017/19, 6 percentage points higher than for native-born workers. A not negligible share of working Georgian emigrants also work in health-related occupations: whether as health practitioners or health support workers. Exact numbers are not fully reliable but oscillate between 10 and 20% depending on the data source.

In Italy and in the United States, over the 2017/20 and 2017/19 periods respectively, Georgian emigrants’ activity is largely oriented toward the services sector (see Figure 3.13). In the United States, only 15% of Georgia-born workers work in the primary or secondary sectors, while 23% of the foreign-born population work in the agriculture, the industry or the construction branches. The rate is also 3 percentage points less than for native-born workers. In Italy, the gap is even larger as a third of foreign-born workers are employed in these sectors compared to less than 5% of Georgia-born workers. The relatively small male population from Georgia in Italy partially explains this trend, as mainly men work in primary and secondary sectors of activity. Indeed, almost half of men born in Georgia work in these sectors in 2017/20 while almost none of their female counterparts do. Most of the working Georgian emigrants in Italy work in other service activities, which include domestic work and elementary occupations.

In the United States, more than a third of workers born in Georgia work in the public administration, education, and health-related sectors (36%), almost on par with the native-born. A quarter of them works in trade, transport, accommodation and catering activities, a significantly higher rates than migrants from selected Caucasian and Central Asian countries and all foreign-born workers.

Georgian migrants struggle to integrate into the labour market in OECD countries. The working-age population’s relative high participation in the labour market hides significant unemployment rates. Roughly half of the Georgia-born population was employed in 2015/16 and 22% of the active population was unemployed. As such, the Georgian diaspora displays a lower labour market insertion compared to the foreign-born population in OECD countries.

However, employment rates of Georgian emigrants vary substantially across destination countries. Insertion into the labour market is even more difficult for women born in Georgia. But the employment gender gap is narrower than for the native-born population of the OECD. In addition, the higher the education levels, the better the access to employment in OECD countries. Still, the higher employment rates of Georgian emigrants with a tertiary education hide significant inadequacy between their qualifications and their job skills’ requirements. Indeed, a substantial share of Georgian workers holds services and sales occupations, as well as elementary occupations. In some countries, they are overrepresented in personal care occupations; in Italy, women mainly work as caretakers of the elderly. In Greece, they particularly hold domestic occupations often with difficult working conditions.


[1] Defensor del Pueblo (2020), Informe anual 2019. Volumen II. La La contribución de la inmigración a la economia española.

[3] Hofmann, E. and C. Buckley (2011), “Cultural Responses to Changing Gender Patterns of Migration in Georgia”, International Migration, Vol. 50/5, pp. 77-94, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2010.00681.x.

[6] ICMPD (2019), ENIGMMA 2 Case Study: Georgian disapora in Greece, Italy and Spain. A Study on the Profile of Georgian Diaspora and Migrant Communities in Three Target Countries, International Centre for Migration POlicy Development, Vienna.

[5] ICMPD (2014), Georgian Diaspora and Migrant Communities in Germany, Greece and Turkey: Transnational Realities and Ties with Georgia, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna.

[2] OECD (2020), International Migration Outlook 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ec98f531-en.

[4] Vanore, M. and M. Siegel (2015), “The evolution of gendered migration trajectories from Moldova & Georgia”, Comparative Migration Studies, Vol. 3/1, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40878-015-0001-z.


← 1. This trend does not apply to Poland but the size of Georgia-born population in Poland was relatively small at the time.

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