In April 2018, the Georgian Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) lost 1.5 index points, dropping from -17.5 to -19. This tiny change is a signal of stability (or stagnation) as far as domestic demand is concerned. Whether no change is a good change for Georgia is debatable. In any case, the month of April merely continues a long-term no-change trend dating back at least to September 2017.
The lack of movement in the overall CCI is a result of opposite movements in its both subcomponents – the Present Situation and Expectation Indices – which happened to partially cancel each other. The Expectations Index declined quite a bit, by 4.3 index points, from -12.8 to -17.1. The main drivers of this negative shift were drops in perceptions concerning expected unemployment, inflation, and the general economic situation in the country. Expectations declined the least among the following demographic groups: old (above 35), people without higher education, females, and those living outside the capital. Exactly the same groups reported relatively higher increases in their perceptions of the current situation. While for the entire sample, the Present Situation Index increased by only 1.4 index points (from -22.2 to -20.8), the change in perceptions was more positive among people without higher education (+3.8 points), females (+2.8 points), and respondents above the age of 35 (+4.5 points). The average change in the current situation assessment outside the capital is positive (0.3 points) but smaller than for Tbilisi (3.5).
THE GEORGIAN WOMEN NO LONGER SEE THE TRAIN AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?
As a well-known joke goes, optimists see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pessimists see nothing. And realists see the train. The CCI data, which we have been collecting since 2012, suggest that Georgian men are much more likely to see the light at the end of the tunnel than Georgian women. The latter are typically more cautious and conservative when it comes to assessing both their personal economic situation and that of the country as a whole. That said, the gender optimism gap has been diminishing since November 2017. Moreover, in April 2018, men and women switched their relative positions: the CCI for men currently stands at -19.6 index points, compared to the more optimistic -18.4 points for women. In particular, women are now much more positive concerning the need (and ability) for the Georgian people to save (an 8 index points advantage over Georgian men) and make major purchases (advantage of 6.6 points). Women continue to see the train (rather than light) when it comes to their own ability to save and past inflation.
Interestingly, the gender optimism gap appears to follow a seasonal pattern - shrinking or even switching sign (in favor of females) around April of each year. This phenomenon has been observed in 5 out of the last 6 years (except April 2015). What can explain this peculiarity? Is it that women are particularly sensitive to sunshine or men are weary of the long and tedious agricultural season looming ahead for them?
Our assessment of the gender optimism gaps is based on responses to the standard CCI questions, as presented in Table 1.
Table 1. THE GAP IN CONSUMER CONFIDENCE (IN INDEX POINTS): MALES VS. FEMALES, APRIL 2018
|Your ability to save, next 12 months||5.4|
|How much did consumer prices rise, past 12 months||5.1|
|How did the general economic situation changed in Georgia, past 12 months||1.0|
|Your current ability to save?||0.9|
|How will your financial situation change, next 12 months||0.4|
|Do you expect to increase spending on major purchases compared to the past, next 12 months||-0.8|
|Your financial situation, past 12 months||-1.8|
|Do you expect prices to increase more rapidly, next 12 months?||-1.9|
|Expected general level of unemployment in Georgia, next 12 months||-3.7|
|General economic situation, next 12 months||-3.7|
|Is now the right time for people to make major purchases in Georgia?||-6.6|
|Is now the right time for people to save in Georgia?||-8.0|