Academic and economist Elchin Rashidov is studying the situation of the middle class in Azerbaijan. According to him, someone can be considered as belonging to the middle class if they make around one thousand manat a month, don’t have bank debts, and have the opportunity to go abroad for recreation once a year.
In his time, he had a good income, a home, a car; other members of the family also had incomes. Despite the fact that he lived on the outskirts of the city, he had a small shop. Although after his small business went bankrupt, his life changed. Now his car no longer belongs to him. For several months already he has been unable to make lease payments. He sold his car. Two of his sons lost their jobs.
The fifty-five year-old man, who wished to remain anonymous, was formerly a small businessman.
He blames the government for his current situation:
“The president sees all this and knows about it. In general, it’s much easier to control people living in such a situation”.
He doesn’t say anything more, just shrugs his shoulders and leaves. According to economists, this entrepreneur’s former standard of living gave him the right to consider himself part of the middle class. However, the economic situation in the country in recent years directly affected the life of this citizen. Now he cannot be called a representative of the middle class (İndi onu orta təbəqənin – orta kəsimin üzvü saymaq olmaz).
“The main criteria of the middle stratum is not income, but wealth.”
Elchin Rashidov is an economist and researcher. He teaches economics at a university. Several years ago, he studied the situation of the middle social stratum
(orta kəsimin) in Azerbaijan. He says that in Azerbaijan, we can consider someone a representative of the middle class if he has a monthly income of up to one thousand manat, owns a home and a car, can allow himself vacation abroad at least once a year, and has no bank debt:
“A representative of the middle class doesn’t search for income on a daily basis, since he’s unconcerned on this front. He can allow himself to go to a restaurant on occasion. He owns a home, a car, doesn’t rent his living space, can allow himself a trip for vacation. A few years ago, they consisted one fourth of the population. This means that the upper stratum (yuxarıtəbəqə) is very few in number, 5% in total. The greater part, 75%, makes up the lower stratum. True, if we compare this with ten years earlier, the middle class has grown, but now it is shrinking. In the next year, the middle class will likely become even smaller. At present, in order to be considered middle-class in Azerbaijan, one needs to at least make one thousand manat. That is, the income of a family of four should be three thousand manat per month. And we cannot forget about the fact that the measure of the middle class is not income, but wealth (sərvətdir). Income comes second. Wealth includes a home and car.”
If things will continue in this way, then the middle class might disappear
, head of the Economic Research Center, says that in Azerbaijan it is impossible to precisely count the number of people who are part of the middle class. Small and medium entrepreneurship play an important role in the formation of the middle class.
“The average level of wages in Azerbaijan is not even 500 manat. If 80% of the population receives near-average wages, then what sort of middle class can we speak of? Only entrepreneurs can enlarge the middle class. In that case, we can consider the middle class in Azerbaijan to be perpetually weaker. If things will continue in this way, then the middle class might disappear entirely. A large part of the population consists of those who must daily search for income.”
believes that a representative of the middle class is a person who can organize their leisure time, whose earnings exceed their healthcare spending, and who can put away in savings at least 30% of their income.
“How can one who’s thinking of their own sustenance think about reforms?”
that the middle class, leading the struggle for better education, healthcare, and a fair justice system, also transforms into supporters of democratic reforms. Economics expert Oqtay Khaqverdiev believes that a representative of the middle stratum, after securing a normal living, might begin to think of reforms:
“I calculated that, pre-devaluation, our middle stratum was 28% of the population; however after devaluation this indicator fell to 12%. Here there is also a political component – going out to meetings, freedom to express oneself. But this takes place later. The fundamental stage is when a person thinks about who it is that rules them. But such thoughts come when one doesn’t have to worry about
. In the opposite case, he’s not interested in who it is that sits in power. When certain conditions are fulfilled, then a person is catalyzed, acquires a desire to participate in political processes, he goes to elections, civil society is created. All this depends on the middle class.”
, in proportion with the implementation of programs outside the oil sector, the situation of the middle class might get better in the next 5-6 years.
In Azerbaijan there are no official statistics on the middle class
According to information from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1.8 billion of the world’s population are middle class. In Azerbaijan there are not official statistics about the numbers of middle class. In Russia, it amounts to 15% of the population, in China – 19%, in Turkey, in 1993, 18% of the population was middle class. In recent years this indicator has increased to 41%.
President Ilham Aliyev
first spoke about the middle class at a meeting with the World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, Henry Karali, in March 2014. According to official information, the president spoke then about taking measures to strengthen the social situation of the middle class. However, over the course of two years, there took place two devaluations…
… an entrepreneur who today cannot lease out his shop was at that time a representative of the middle class.