The Terrible Pay of Civil Servants

The average monthly salary here is 116,000 drams ($293 USD). In comparison, the average monthly salary for civil servants is 141,000 drams ($376 USD). I’ll let other’s discuss whether civil servants (generally well educated) should make more than the average salary. What interests me more is that the starting salaries are atrocious. For every wealthy well-connected position, there are a “wealth” of entry-level positions that pay a pittance. Starting salary for civil servants is 40-60,000 dram ($100-$150). As a point of comparison, bus drivers get paid 70-80,000 dram ($175-$200). Only next year will civil servants’ pay come with benefits.

The overall effect is young people jumping ship from the low paying, but important, government jobs. A coworker of mine used to do legal research for the national parliament, likely a prestigious position. But, he left to work here in the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office for roughly double the pay. [A side note: the Ombudsman’s Office conducts fundraisers, just like an NGO, to make ends meet].

The government has a project to “guillotine” many government jobs to increase the pay of those that remain. This can help increase standards and retain more institutional memory and skill development. But, this will also add to Armenia’s massive 57.6% youth unemployment rate (highest in the world!).

The government is trying to do trainings to increase youth employment, but they are only benefiting a handful of youth at a time. The Armenian economy has a glut of educated youth. Education has always been highly regarded in Armenia. But, with an economy shot through with oligarchs and corruption, there aren’t many opportunities for economic growth (you figure out a new way to sell something cheaper? Congratulations, your shop gets burned down).

The net result is one of the highest emigration rates in the world. You try building a country where your best and brightest leave in droves.

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