employment

Youth unemployment in Kazakhstan

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The blog is back for another year! 2020 represents my ninth year of blogging on education, society and politics in Central Asia. Over the lifetime of the blog, I’ve posted almost 300 stories that have been viewed over 50,000 times and earned nearly 1,500 subscribers. Thanks to everyone who reads the blog, whether occasionally or often. If you don’t yet subscribe to receive an email when new posts are published, it’s never too late to sign up! Simply enter your email address under ‘Follow blog’ on the homepage.

Kicking off a new year of blogging, let’s take a look at youth unemployment in Kazakhstan. The info below is drawn from a recent post [ru] by Central Asia Monitor.

If cats were mechanics, all cars would run purr-fectly

First, who’s in work?

Despite leading with the alarming headline ‘Youth unemployment on the increase’, the article first doles out the good news that 2.1 million young people (aged 15-28) were in work at the end of 2019. This is 3.8% higher than at the end of 2018.

The top 5 professions for the age group based on the number of people in work in each field are:

  1. Wholesale and retail trade; car and motorcycle repair – 388,700 people / 18.3% of all 15-28 in employment
  2. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries – 257,200 people / 12.1%
  3. Education [hurray! – adds this educator author] – 236,300 people / 11.1%
  4. Public administration (civil service) and defence, compulsory social security – 152,000 people / 7.2%
  5. Manufacturing – 149,600 people / 7.1

(Some of the categories – there are 20 in total – seem rather arbitrary, such as the addition of those in receipt of social security alongside civil servants. The statistics presented by Central Asia Monitor are drawn from Ranking.kz, which in turn has used data from the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of National Economy. Thus, the numbers should be bona fide and we should assume that the categorizations are the government’s choice.)

…And who’s not in work?

Cheery news for young car mechanics and farmers aside, the article then gets to the heart of the matter: that the number of young people who are out of work also rose at the end of 2019 to 84,700 – up 3.4% from the previous year. The increase has been seen more in urban areas, whereas in rural areas the rate of unemployment actually dropped by 0.2%.

By level of education, nearly 40% of unemployed young people have completed ‘secondary vocational education’ (среднее профессиональное образование) and 37% have a higher education degree. It’s not clear to me whether these stats include students or only those who are known in some parts as ‘NEET’: not in education, employment or training.

Both of these groups saw around 2% increases in year-on-year unemployment rates – which doesn’t send a great message about the virtues of continuing in education to increase your job prospects. Indeed, unemployment rates among those with an unfinished degree, initial vocational education, (non-specialized) secondary education and basic education all decreased…

What is to be done?

In response, the government has introduced a number of policy measures design to reduce levels of youth unemployment. Last year, these were wrapped under a broader initiative that designated 2019 as the Year of Youth and which reached, according to government sources, 2 million young people.

The symbolic designation of the year is obviously in itself not going to make any difference, but underpinning the Year of Youth was a roadmap for supporting young people through information/advice (e.g. about housing, finding work) on the one hand and financial assistance (e.g. providing rental housing, start-up grants/micro-credits for new businesses) on the other.

Overall, however, the situation is not too bad, all things considered. Since 2014, youth unemployment in Kazakhstan has dropped from 4.3% of the age group to 3.8% in 2019. Both figures are significantly lower than the youth unemployment rate in other countries. In Romania, where the total population and urban population rates are similar to Kazakhstan (19.2 million and 55% in Romania, 18.8 million and 58% in Kazakhstan), youth unemployment stood at around 16% in 2019. In Ecuador (population 17.6 million, 63% urban) the rate was nearer 9%. You get the idea.

Steps towards gender equality in Kyrgyzstan

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Happy new year / S novim godom / Soli nav muborak to you all!

Kickstarting this year’s set of posts is a report from Kyrgyzstan on steps being taken – primarily by the government and a small but growing number of local NGOs – to bring greater equality to the country.

The article can be found at https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/cristina-maza/challenging-patriarchy-in-kyrgyzstan.

The author points out the unusual situation of formerly Soviet-run countries where women’s roles have actually decreased in equality terms since the fall of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s. Soviet policies towards women were, like many aspects of its rule, largely economic-led (e.g. more women in the workforce = greater productivity), but had knock on social and cultural impacts that benefitted women’s status.

Christina Maza’s balanced and interesting article offers an insight into how gender roles are developing in independent Kyrgyzstan. What is most fascinating is the stark divide for women, where the haves (middle class, educated etc) take bold steps towards a greater role for women by, for example, holding high level government posts but the have nots (often rural and from poorer backgrounds) may marry young and not be able to access opportunities for educational and/or career development.

I have in the past read about initiativesthat are bringing concepts of gender equality and women’s rights to more rural areas, but much more needs to be done to give parity to women within Kyrgyzstan. Last summer, I met with senior female university managers, one of whom has since been appointed to a very high level government post. I was perhaps even more delighted to meet a female taxi driver in Bishkek, a profession in many countries predominantly held by men. These women are in their own right extraordinary people, and I hope that across Kyrgyzstan more women will be able to develop and employ their skills on at least a level pegging with their male counterparts.

Skills and employability in Tajikistan

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The World Bank has recently published The skills road: skills for employability in Tajikistan (full citation at the end of this post). The report argues that

Generating more productive employment is arguably the most critical challenge [for the government, against a backdrop of relative political and economic stability].

This finding comes from an extensive household survey undertaken in Tajikistan that focussed on skills, the first of its kind. There are some interesting sections in the report explaining why this skills approach was taken and just how you go about measuring and comparing cognitive skills such as working memory and graph comprehension.

The strong conclusion of the report is that there are serious skills gaps in Tajikistan. Both the causes and the impact of these gaps are multifarious. As an example, the authors identify points throughout the life course where opportunities to enhance skills are currently being missed. During the early years of life, access to pre-school or equivalent early years education is not available to enough children. Once people have left education (and women are leaving education significantly earlier than their male counterparts), difficulties in finding work and a paucity of work-based training are contributing to a growing mis-match between the skills employers are increasingly demanding and the experiences that employees are able or willing to offer.

Given that the causes and outcomes are so extensive, the authors make a series of recommendations – they call this a ‘skills map’ to boost employability and productivity in Tajikistan:

Skills road map Tajikistan 2014

(From page 51 of the report)

This is a richly detailed report that makes use of some very valuable new primary data, and is well worth reading. This brief summary should hopefully whet your appetite!

Source

Ajwad, Mohamed Ihsan , Hut, Stefan, Abdulloev, Ilhom, Audy, Robin, de Laat, Joost, Kataoka,
Sachiko, Larrison, Jennica, Nikoloski, Zlatko and Torracchi, Federico (2014) The skills road: skills
for employability in Tajikistan. World Bank, Washington, USA. Available at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/60024/1/__lse.ac.uk_storage_LIBRARY_Secondary_libfile_shared_repository_Content_Nikoloski%2C%20Z_Nikoloski_Skills_Road_Tajikistan_Nikoloski_Skills_%20Road_Tajikistan_2014.pdf.