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Uzbekistan

Growth in Central Asia hinges on creating more jobs with higher wages

Lilia Burunciuc's picture


Jobs and wage growth have been the most important driver of poverty reduction globally, and Central Asia. In Tajikistan, for example, it has cut poverty by about two-thirds since 2003. In Kazakhstan, it accounted for more than three-quarters of income growth over the past decade — even among the poorest 20 percent. The other Central Asian nations have also achieved significant economic growth and poverty reduction in the past two decades due to income growth.

But poverty-reduction rates have slowed. In Kyrgyzstan, they began slowing during the global recession of 2008, as income growth faltered. Poverty reduction in Tajikistan leveled off in 2015, when wage growth slackened and remittances from Tajiks working overseas fell.

In Uzbekistan, more than 90 percent of the poorest households have identified lack of jobs as their most urgent priority. For these families, the prospect of increasing their income is slim, while the likelihood of transmitting poverty to their children is high.

So what should countries in Central Asian do to build on their past achievements and prepare their citizens for the jobs of the future?

Investing today in human capital for a brighter future tomorrow

Lilia Burunciuc's picture
Kids in pre-school, Kyrgyz Republic

A young man sitting next to me on a recent flight from Almaty to Dushanbe told me, “I regret that I did not get a better education. I could have had a better job.” He is one of many Central Asian labor migrants doing low-skilled work in neighboring countries. He continued, “I’m telling my brothers and sisters to study hard if they want to have a better life.”

It was an important reminder about the responsibility we have as a society to ensure that young people like him get the education they deserve.

In light of the technological revolution we are witnessing today, the promise of education is becoming even more important. Emergence of robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning will transform the way we live, the way we work, and the skills we will need for work. Some jobs will disappear and some that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that education will be critical to succeed in the new reality.

While Central Asian countries inherited high-levels of adult literacy and education attainment from the Soviet period, the region has since experienced a visible decline in the quality of learning. Students here often lag behind in such basic skills as critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.

Women working behind the wheels? Not everywhere – yet

Katrin Schulz's picture
Also available in: Español  | العربية



Starting this month, an estimated 9 million women will be able to get behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia after the historic announcement in September last year lifting the ban on women from driving. While international attention has often focused on the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia, it has often missed the fact that women in several other countries are legally debarred from certain driving jobs. The World Bank’s recently released Women, Business and the Law 2018 report finds that 19 countries around the world legally restrict women from working in the transport sector in the same way as men.

April 2018 global poverty update from the World Bank

Christoph Lakner's picture

In April, PovcalNet revised the World Bank’s global and regional poverty estimates from 1981 to 2013. The next major update of global and regional poverty estimates is scheduled for October 2018, when the global poverty estimates for the reference year 2015 will be released. This will coincide with the launch of the next Poverty and Shared Prosperity report (the 2016 Poverty and Shared Prosperity report can be found here).

Creating dialogue and citizen engagement – initial observations from Uzbekistan

Nina Kolybashkina's picture
I started my assignment in Uzbekistan in 2015, working on social issues such as labor rights, gender mainstreaming, and citizen engagement. This work was certainly not without its challenges, at a time when Uzbekistan ranked among the worst performers on democracy and accountability, and before the process of liberalizing the economy had begun.

I never imagined, therefore, when I temporarily left Uzbekistan in late 2016, that I would return just a half year later to find the country in the midst of a significant transformation.

What can an Uzbek mountain town learn from an Austrian eco-friendly tourism destination?

Rosanna Nitti's picture
Hiking recently around Chartak in Uzbekistan’s Namangan Region, I was struck by the area’s natural beauty and literally (and figurately) got my second breadth. At 650 meters above sea level, this modest town in the Ferghana Valley enjoys evergreen alpine pastures and rocky panoramas, and is permeated by a constant supply of high-altitude fresh air and crystal-clear, mineral-rich waters.

Sustainable tourism can be an economic lifeline for many mountain communities and help create job opportunities for their young people – which is all the more important since three-quarters of people living in extreme poverty in Uzbekistan live in rural areas.
 


 

The high toll of traffic injuries in Central Asia: unacceptable and preventable

Aliya Karakulova's picture

Did you know that in Kazakhstan we live in the country with the deadliest roads? Every year, 3,000 people die on roads in Kazakhstan, and over 30,000 are injured. Imagine if an airplane crashed every month! Would you fly?

We are 11 times more likely to die in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan than in Norway. Indeed, the numbers for road deaths are high in all Central Asian countries.

The High Toll of Traffic Injuries in Central Asia
Source: WHO, 2013


Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years. Not cancer, not heart diseases, and not wars.

Life changing injuries and deaths affect countries in terms of health care and economic costs – the annual economic loss of road deaths in Central Asian countries is estimated at around 3-4% of GDP.

But beyond this monetary value, lies a person’s life. 

Doing Business and Central Asia – After 15 years, how much reform?

Stefka Slavova's picture


This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.

Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.

After the storm: Time to rebuild faster and stronger

Lilia Burunciuc's picture
With every calamity comes an opportunity: to rebound and rebuild stronger than before. The economies of Central Asia faced such an opportunity following the major economic shock they experienced at the end of 2014. The collapse in commodity prices affected not only oil-producing countries – highlighting the narrow production base on which their prosperity rests – but also oil importers, whose growth depends largely on remittance-fueled demand.

All countries in the region experienced significant welfare losses. In 2015-16, the volume of imports declined 15% in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and 25% in Kyrgyzstan – a clear sign that households and firms were constrained.

After the initial shock, however, the economies of Central Asia rebounded. This was thanks to supportive fiscal and monetary policies, namely fiscal expansion and relatively lose monetary policy. Growth has picked-up: for Central Asia, as a whole, it is now projected to reach 4.4% in 2017, against 2.8% the year before. Inflation has returned to manageable levels: in Kazakhstan, it has plummeted down from the double-digit rates seen after the fall in oil prices, confirming that the previous spike was merely a one-time adjustment.

But, have the countries of Central Asia done enough to shift the focus from structural constraints to durable prosperity? According to the recently released Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia, important challenges still lie ahead.

Managing water better is central to attaining our development goals

Jonas Jägermeyr's picture
Rainwater harvesting for drip irrigation, Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
Photo credit: Wisions.net
Everybody depends on it; there is no substitute for it if we run out; in some places, it’s more valuable than oil. Freshwater is at the very core of human development: it is inextricably linked to food security, economic growth, and poverty reduction.

At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.

According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.

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