Armenia, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, experienced a decrease in poverty after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the recession in 2008 had a significant impact on Armenia and the economy is still struggling to recover. Many families in Armenia struggle to obtain employment and afford necessities. In 2021, 26.5% of people in Armenia lived below the national poverty level. The primary reasons for being poor in Armenia are a high unemployment rate, economic transition and political instability within the country. 

Economic Transition

Armenia experienced a difficult transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-based economy after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This transition led to a significant decline in industrial production, high inflation and loss of jobs. Armenia continues to face economic challenges, including high levels of poverty and inequality, limited access to finance and a lack of economic diversification.

Additionally, a key driver of Armenia’s economic transition is the development of the technology sector, particularly in the field of information technology. A range of startups such as iCity LLC are focused on technology services and software development to provide businesses with better services and equipment. Another startup, Abigon LLC, specializes in developing infrastructures for telecommunication networks and the design and construction of database centers, which have facilitated the transport of goods and services, enabling people in Armenia to access work, school and recreational activities.   


High unemployment has been a major driver of poverty in Armenia, especially for Armenia’s large families. The reported unemployment rate in Armenia is 12.7% as of January 2023, and many people face challenges in finding work. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the Armenian economy, leading to job losses and reduced economic activity.

In response to this issue, the government has implemented a formal program for vocational education, mostly in schools, which aims to prepare students with relevant qualifications to improve their skills to gain employment. So far, vocational education has assisted in the upskilling of qualifications and competencies in a range of industries, including agriculture, tourism and technology.

Political Instability

Armenia has struggled with government corruption which has eroded public trust in political institutions and contributed to social and economic inequality. The lack of democratic elections due to the authorities’ failure to ensure justice and transparency has resulted in a lack of public confidence in the electoral process and slowed Armenia’s progress toward becoming a functioning democracy.

Looking Ahead

Armenia has made noticeable progress in implementing anti-corruption activities such as those being carried out by Armenia’s General Prosecutor’s Office. Governmental support for programs designed to encourage young people to develop and adapt to changing working conditions could deliver positive results. For example, from 2003 to 2007, local and international NGOs, such as the All Armenian Youth Fund, implemented youth programs to increase cultural and professional orientation. Finally, as a British charity operating internationally, CARE works to reduce global poverty and support the development of civil society. Since 1988, CARE has been working primarily on assisting Armenian rural households with incomes below the poverty line. 

– Lilit Natalia Manoukian
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in ArmeniaArmenia is not a country at peace. For the past three decades, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have increased. As the border dispute turned deadly in September 2020, rumors emerged of potential involvement from outsider countries, such as Turkey and Russia. However, the country struggles with a concurrent problem. Elderly poverty in Armenia is a stifling issue in the country, which needs just as much attention.

The Current Crisis

In addition to a looming war, Armenians have suffered a vast diaspora. More Armenians live outside Armenia than inside the country. Armenians who live outside the country total anywhere from double to quadruple the number of those living within Armenia. The older generation is the main group still residing within the border. One reason is that older groups have fewer professional opportunities outside of Armenia, so they often stay put. This affects a large portion of society. More than a quarter of Armenia’s population is older than 54 and one-half of this demographic is older than 65 years old.

The global recession of 2008 led to increased poverty rates across all demographics in Armenia. At that time, the rate of extreme poverty among Armenians older than the age of 65 was 2% and the rate of non-extreme poverty for this group was 29.5%. By 2017, the rate of extreme and non-extreme poverty had fallen for Armenians older than 65, but either increased or remained the same for Armenians between the ages of 50 and 59.

All of these crises leave the elderly in Armenia underserved. However, there are organizations fighting on behalf of this group.

Armenian Caritas

Armenian Caritas, a community-based NGO, operates in Shirak, Lori, Gegharkunik, Ararat and Yerevan. More than a third of its staff are volunteers and the organization’s goal is to provide “social inclusion and care of the elderly.”

Armenian Caritas uses a comprehensive method to address elderly poverty in Armenia. Since 1995, the NGO has taken a long-term approach to anticipating the needs of its clientele. Thus, it recognizes that by 2050, a quarter of Armenia’s total population may be between the ages of 60 and 64.

Armenian Caritas focuses on providing “rehabilitative items,” like crutches and moving toilets, to elderly patients. Similarly, it offers psychological and physical health care to patients with chronic diseases. These methods are part of a larger strategy of social inclusion.

Elderly Armenians represent a large and growing percentage of Armenia’s domestic population. As such, Armenian Caritas works to ensure that elderly Armenians never experience marginalization. The organization shares its methodology of elderly care with Armenian medical colleges and institutions. In this way, elderly care is part of Armenian practice — the tradition of caring for its vulnerable and aging populations.

An End to Elderly Poverty

A solution to the border skirmish between Armenia and Azerbaijan will hopefully reach a resolution through international mediation and earnest peace talks between the belligerents. Since the economy is still recovering and has continued to focus on growth, the government must address the diaspora by providing opportunities to draw the younger generations back to the country. Amid all of that, the country must not forget about older Armenians. There is hope for an end to elderly poverty in Armenia. However, concerted, sustained efforts are necessary to address it.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr