Promoting Job Rich and Sustainable Growth in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

Jun 23, 2016

Almaty 23 June 2016 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the Government of Finland, today launched a  conference on Employment, Trade, and Sustainable Development in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. 

The participants of the forum include government, private sector, and civil society representatives from the 5 countries, together with UNDP, ILO, and EBRD staff as well as other national and international partners.

All the countries represented at the conference are facing challenges of diversifying their economies and generating decent jobs. They have seen that economic growth which relies overly on one or two exports - or on remittances - is vulnerable to shocks, and is not resilient. While employment levels are relatively high in the region, many people work in jobs that are low-wage, informal, and insecure. Many face high risks of poverty and exclusion – of being “left behind”. Likewise, in line with the climate change commitments made by all of the countries at Paris COP 21 last December, the countries of the sub-region need to ensure that growth and job creation are compatible with environmental sustainability.

It is very much through this lens of sustainable development – development which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable - that participants are looking at the employment challenges in Central Asia. Like the rest of the world, the region needs economic growth that not only raises living standards but also ensures that inequalities do not pose a threat to both future growth and social cohesion. This means that jobs have to be decent and green – they should at minimum not harm the environment, and ideally contribute to more sustainable patterns of production and consumption

Participants are also looking at the role of trade and the private sector in promoting employment-rich and sustainable development. Trade can contribute to raising living standards and creating quality jobs, but small Central Asian producers still face significant barriers in accessing markets abroad due to the high costs of taking goods across borders.

Daniele Gelz, project manager of UNDP’s Aid for Trade project, which is active in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, stressed the need for partnerships in promoting more diverse, employment-intensive and environmentally sustainable trade patterns: “We are happy to report on our new partnership with UNCTAD in identifying products and value chains which are potentially marketable, profitable, but which can also be produced in environmentally sustainable ways.”

Moving forward, it will be fundamental for sustainable development in the sub-region that employment is placed right at the centre of the policy agenda. Labour markets cannot by themselves be expected to generate large numbers of decent jobs in the region. Appropriate policies and programming, backed up by strong and appropriately resourced employment institutions, are needed to ensure that growth and labour markets are more inclusive.

Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, stressed the central role of decent work and employment promotion in national growth and development strategies. “We need a comprehensive, concerted and multifaceted approach consisting of an integrated policy “package” as promoted by the Global Jobs Pact adopted in 2009 and the recently adopted Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. Such a package should reflect the specific needs and context of each country with the participation of all ministries and sectors concerned, as well as the workers’ and employers’ organisations,” she said.

The EBRD believes that economic inclusion, of previously under-served social groups, is integral to development. During the EBRD session on Skills and Employment, Alper Dincer, EBRD Inclusion Economist, discussed how the gap between individual’s skills and the demands of the job market is one of the pressing issues in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, and how the Bank work with its clients to achieve economic inclusion - supporting young people’s transition into employment and close the skills mis-match gap through improved skills standards that reflect employer needs.

Experience in the region has shown that women face particular obstacles in grasping the opportunities offered by business and trade.  These are discussed further in a session chaired by the EBRD on Women in Business.

Janet Heckman, EBRD Director for Kazakhstan said that promoting women’s entrepreneurship is an important avenue for economic growth and diversification. Women in Kazakhstan show great entrepreneurial spirit and EBRD’s programme “Women in Business” forms part of a wider commitment to women’s economic empowerment in the country. The programme, which is co-funded by the EBRD and the government of Kazakhstan, offers credit lines, risk management support and technical assistance to local partner banks who work with women-led SMEs and business advisory services, training and mentoring to women-led SMEs directly.

Migration has played a significant role in reducing poverty in the less wealthy Central Asian countries, but its benefits are offset by a series of human costs – to families and communities.  Together with the Eurasian Development Bank, UNDP has researched migration patterns from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and is looking at how migration can be better managed to reduce informality and risks, and ensure that it can bring more benefits for economically and socially sustainable development.

Ben Slay, Senior Strategic Advisor at UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub, said: “many labour markets in Central Asia have important cross-border dimensions. Policies and programming need to reflect the importance of better managing migration flows.”


For more information on UNDP’s work in Central Asia, please visit:

For more information on ILO’s work in Central Asia, please visit:

For more information on EBRD’s work in Central Asia, please visit:





EBRD Kazakhstan: 41 Kazybek bi str, Almaty, 050010 Kazakhstan. Tel: +7 727 3320000 Fax: +7 727 2584632

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Kazakhstan 
Go to UNDP Global