On 30 September 2016, Aziz Abduxakimov, the Minister of Labour and the Social Welfare of the Population, presented his report on employment to the Qonunchilik Palatasi, the lower house of the Oily Majlis. The report confirmed two facts about the government’s employment policies: that they are struggling to keep pace with population growth, and that they are focused towards creating new jobs for the young rather than helping to reemploy older workers. The statistics aside, the relationship between the Minister and the Qonunchilik Palatasi demonstrated in this review reaffirms the influence of the Oliy Majlis in Uzbekistani politics; this will be especially true for whatever government succeeds the Karimov administration.
In the 6 month period from 1 January to 30 June of 2016, 462,500 people became employed in Uzbekistan. This massive job creation program, however, still barely manages to keep pace in a country where approximately 0.7 million new workers enter the labour market every year. The figures given Mr. Abduxakimov represent a success in that the country is keeping its head above water, but similar figures for job creation will need to continue not only in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, but for the next decade, if Uzbekistan wants to avoid the social and political strains of youth unemployment.
Breaking the overall number down, of the 0.46 million jobs filled, over 70% were newly created, with only around 25% representing persons laid off from work finding new jobs. This figure shows that the actual work that the Ministry of Labour and the Social Welfare of the Population can perform regarding employment is limited. Whereas many undeveloped countries experience skill gaps in their labour market, which retards growth than could be achieved if the population was more educated or experienced, the driving factor of unemployment in Uzbekistan remains the sheer volume of the workforce. Uzbekistan’s population is extremely well educated, with large numbers of youth received higher and specialized technical educations, meaning that the skill gap plays little part as a factor in unemployment. The main directive for reducing unemployment is therefore not job retraining programs — handled by the Ministry of Labour and the Social Welfare of the Population — but industrialization — a complex process handled jointly by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, and Ministry of Foreign Investment, Trade, and Commerce. In other words, there is a limited amount that Mr. Abduxakimov can do to lower rates of unemployment, a fact pointed out by the parliamentary review.
Although its success is not attributable to the work of the Ministry of Labour and the Social Welfare of the Population, the report given by the Minister does highlight some key successes of the current industrialization strategy. In addition to keeping pace with the entry of new workers into the labour market, the current plan has created ~60% of the new jobs in rural areas, which traditionally face much higher rates of unemployment and poverty compared to the rest of the country. The industrialization strategy is thus targeted towards social issues, with the likely result that new factory jobs will finally take a bite out of the stubbornly high rates of poverty in the Uzbekistani countryside.