Kazakhstan - An Overview of Women's Work, Minimum Wages and Employment

An Overview of Women’s Work and Employment in Kazakhstan. Minimum wage, wages, labour employment, unemployment, women employment, working conditions, Labour market structure, Legislation, Labour relations, Literacy, Literacy and skill levels of female labour, etc...


Decisions for Life MDG3 Project Country Report No. 10

University of Amsterdam /Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS)
Maarten van Klaveren, Kea Tijdens, Melanie Hughie-Williams, Nuria Ramos Martin
email: m.vanklaveren@uva.nl
Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 2010




This report provides information on Kazakhstan on behalf of the implementation of the DECISIONS FOR LIFE project in that country. The DECISIONS FOR LIFE project aims to raise awareness amongst young female workers about their employment opportunities and career possibilities, family building and the work-family balance. This report is part of the Inventories, to be made by the University of Amsterdam, for all 14 countries involved. It focuses on a gender analysis of work and employment.

History (2.1.1). Under the Soviet regime, the Kazahs had a hard time, initially not improving with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 2000s, based on its mineral wealth and high oil prices, the economy boomed, followed by a nosedive in 2008.

Governance (2.1.2). Kazakhstan is a republic with a parliamentary system dominated by president Nazarbayev and his party. Recently the government’s human rights record remained poor. Though constitution and law provide for equal rights and freedoms for men and women, enforcement of human and women’s rights is weak. Women’s participation in politics and governance structures is low.

Prospects (2.1.3). The global economic crisis has a considerable impact on Kazakhstan’s economic and maybe social prospects. The government had to massively support the banking system. Though official (un)employment and wage figures for 2009 do not yet point at serious consequences for the population, projections until 2015 stick to low growth rates, which among other things may endanger the government’s ambituous diversification program.

Communication (2.2). Though the coverage of fixed telephone connections has recently increased, this is dwarfed by the expansion of the incidence of cell phones, to about one per inhabitant in 2008. By that year, 146 per 1,000 were Internet users. Nearly all households have a TV set. The government uses a variety of means to control the media and limit freedom of expression.

The sectoral labour market structure – Population and employment (2.3.1). Between 2001 and 2008 a growing ”formalisation” of the of the labour market took place, lifting the share of employees to about two-third. In particular women’s employment witnessed strong growth. Reaching 75% in 2008, women’s Labour Participation Rate (LPR) was rather high and 92% of men’s.

The sectoral labour market structure – Unemployment (2.3.2). In the 2000s unemployment fell from over 10% to below 7%, with female unemployment rates remaining one third above male. Youth employment is rather low, the highest unemoplyment rates are among the female 25-29 aged.

Legislation (2.4.1). Kazakhstan has ratified the eight core ILO Labour Conventions. The Constitution provides for the freedom of association and the right to strike, though notably the latter right is subject to numerous legal limitations. In the informal economy the government did not enforce contracts or labour legislation.

Labour relations and wage-setting (2.4.2). The union movement of Kazakhstan consists of both “traditional” and, after independence newly created, “independent” trade unions. In the 1990s membership of in particular the traditional confederation fell heavily. In 2008, union density may have been about 50% (paid employees). Based on formally tripartite structures, the yearly General Agreement is the basis for national, regional and sectoral collective agreements.

The statutory minimum wage (2.5.1). In 2009 the national monthly minimum wage, set by law, was 13,717 Tenge, or 23% of the country’s average monthly wage. Since 2004, the gap between the minimum and average wage has slightly decreased.

Poverty (2.5.2). The country’s growth pattern has been pro-poor, with in the (early) 2000s poverty falling according to all yardsticks. For 2004, it was estimated that 16% of the population lived below the national poverty line. Income inequality is relatively limited. Nevertheless, an in-depth study revealed considerable housing poverty and poor quality of basic infrastructure services.

Population and fertility (2.6.1). Kazakstan’s population showed a sharp downward trend from 1989 to 2002, followed by a modest growth of on average 0.9% yearly. The total fertility rate, about 1.9 children per woman, and the adolescent fertility rate (29 per 1,000) are both rather low and stable. Early marriage and early pregnancy do occur, but seem to remain rather limited.

Health (2.6.2). In 2007, the number of people in Kazakhstan living with HIV was estimated at 12,000, or 0.7 per 1,000, low in comparison with the rest of the region. The levels of public awareness of HIV/AIDS are low, as is the case for knowledge on contraceptive prevalence among women. General health indicators are still low by international standards. In particular in urban areas, access to essential infrastructure services is limited.

Women’s labour market share (2.6.3). Women make up nearly half of the country’s labour force. In 2008 seven of 15 industries showed a female share above this average as well as a female majority. Women are clearly over-represented in four occupational groups at the higher and middle levels, each time with more than a two to one parity; even at the level of legislators, senior officials and managers, the female share of 38% is in international perspective rather high.

Literacy (2.7.1). The adult literacy rate –those age 15 and over that can read and write—in 1999-2006 was 97.9%, with a small gender gap: 99.0% for men and 96.7% for women. In 2007 the literacy rate for 15-24-year-olds stood at 99.8%; the young females scored 99.9%.

Education of girls (2.7.2). In 2006, the combined gross enrollment rate in education was 91.8%, divided in 88.5% for females and 95.1% for males. Net enrollment in primary education was for 2007 set at 99.4% for girls and 98.6% for boys. Women to men parity in secondary education increased to 97% in 2007. Income differences play a major role in further education after secondary school, though much more young women than young men enroll in universities and colleges.

Female skill levels (2.7.3). Women in the employed population have on average a higher educational level than their male colleagues. In contrast, women’s opportunities in work and employment are severely limited by the segmentation of the country’s labour market along regional and gender dimensions. We estimate the current size of the target group of DECISIONS FOR LIFE for Kazakhstan at about 230,000 girls and young women 15-29 of age working in urban areas in commercial services.

Wages (2.8.1). We found for 2008 a large gender pay gap, totaling 36%. Further, fitting in the picture of a highly segmented labour market, wages in Kazakhstan vary largely across sectors, occupational categories, the urban – rural divide, and across regions.

Working conditions (2.8.2). Official statistical information concerning working conditions is quite limited. As far as can be traced, gender differences in hours worked are small.


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