Uzbek Farmers Forced to Create Jobs
Filed Under: Politics, World | Posted: 09/11/2012 at 10:35AM
Comments | Region: Uzbekistan
Officials in Uzbekistan say the unemployment rate has fallen below five per cent, a figure disputed by other sources.
In a report issued at the end of August, the State Statistics and Employment Committee said 4.8 per cent of the able-bodied population were unemployed, and over half a million new jobs were created in January-June, seven out of ten of them in rural areas.
The World Bank says the figure for the “underemployed” is over 20 per cent.
According to Tashpolat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst now living in the United States, "The unemployment issue in Uzbekistan is fairly acute – one in three able-bodied person is unemployed, and in the provinces, one in two does not have permanent work."
A government strategy launched in 2007 requires half a million or more jobs to be created annually. But local commentators say this is being implemented by creating artificial jobs in the farming sector, including seasonal work, which then contribute to the statistics.
"All farmers are forced to create jobs," a media-watcher in northwest Uzbekistan said. "They are just ordered to do so. Ninety per cent of the 60,000 jobs created in Khorezm region were on [private] farms."
The Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan says between two and five million people work abroad, mainly in Russia and Kazakstan, and also in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. The authorities deny labour migration is on this scale.
Farmers are required to take on and pay unemployed locals who have not joined the exodus to Russia and other countries. It is seasonal work, lasting from sowing to the harvest, and commonest in areas with high levels of surplus labour like Karakalpakstan and Khorezm in the northwest, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya in the south, and the eastern Fergana Valley.
One widespread ruse adopted by farmers involves pretending to hire people and then paying in the appropriate tax and welfare contributions so as to satisfy the bureaucrats, who then compute the employment figures accordingly.
“I was compelled to hire three people on a monthly wage of 80,000 soms [under 40 US dollars]," a farmer in Khorezm’s Khiva district said. "The new jobs exist only on paper. I’m supposedly paying them, but they’re actually working in Russia."
This article was produced as part of IWPR’s News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.
If you would like to comment or ask a question about this story, please contact our Central Asia editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org.