Report Announcement: Central Asia’s Horticulture Sector: Capitalizing on New Export Opportunities in Chinese and Russian Markets, by Kateryna Schroeder and Sergiy Zorya

(Editor’s note:  We are happy to re-share this blog with permission, which was originally posted at World Bank Blogs in both English and Russian, the links are here.  There are links here below to the original report on fruit exports in Central Asia.)

English   https://blogs.worldbank.org/europeandcentralasia/how-fruit-can-boost-economic-development-central-asia

Russian  https://blogs.worldbank.org/ru/europeandcentralasia/how-fruit-can-boost-economic-development-central-asia

Ask any tourist visiting Central Asia what they love about the region and, among other responses, you are likely to hear about their mouth-watering experience eating fresh, tasty fruits and berries. This is not surprising, as the region is home to some 300 wild fruit and nut species.

What is surprising is that the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan currently realize only about one-third of their export potential in cherries, grapes, apricots, and plums—fresh fruits in which they hold a comparative advantage.

There is enormous potential to increase Central Asian fruit exports, thus boosting economic growth, generating employment (horticulture requires at least twice as much labor as cereal crops!), and creating opportunities for income generation in rural areas. All of these would be very welcome developments amidst dwindling GDP growth across the region.

Exporting to China: large market, many hurdles

Chinese markets create a particularly lucrative opportunity for Central Asian fruit suppliers to grow their exports. The country’s increasingly more affluent and educated consumers continue to shift their dietary preferences to include more protein, fruit, and vegetables. This contributes to a rapid growth in fruit import demand, which by 2030 is expected to reach $2.7 billion——a huge opportunity for Central Asian farmers.

Although the Central Asian countries are well placed to be more competitive in satisfying China’s growing demand for fruit imports, entering the formidable Chinese fresh fruit markets is not  easy.

China has rather stringent food safety standards. Imported produce must be consistent in both quality and volume, which requires sophisticated quality and logistics systems that the Central Asian countries have yet to develop.

Moreover, Chinese fruit markets are highly fragmented and competitive, so importers need to have a close relationship with a Chinese counterpart on the ground. And Chinese consumers value attractive packaging and products with recognizable brands.

Most Central Asian fruit producers are small farmers with limited access to financial and knowledge resources, which results in constrained production volumes and inconsistent supply quality. Although perfectly adjusted to trading domestically, Central Asia’s small-scale producers lack the capacity necessary to meet the bureaucratic and procedural conformity of international markets.

At the government level, the quality and capacity of the region’s food and safety systems, customs control, and inspection bodies do not meet the requirements of Chinese markets, putting its exporters at a disadvantage vis-à-vis major suppliers to China, such as Chile or the United States. Moreover, Central Asian exporters are often unaware of the available opportunities provided by Chinese markets and of the requirements to enter them.

As a result, China still accounts for only a tiny, albeit growing, share of total Central Asian fruit exports. And those Central Asian exporters that do enter Chinese markets face significantly lower price premiums compared to their competitors.

Similar hurdles are emerging in the traditional markets

Currently, more than 85 percent of Central Asian exports of cherries, grapes, apricots, and plums are shipped to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. However, even in these traditional markets, Central Asian exporters are losing out on existing opportunities, receiving prices 30 percent less than those enjoyed by the competitors.

Why is this happening?

Most Central Asian fruits are largely sold in open-air markets. Yet, sales of fruits through modern grocery store chains in Russia have been growing at an accelerated pace, often at the expense of traditional retail markets. Central Asian fruit suppliers are scarcely present in Russian formal retail stores, as they are often unable to provide produce with the quality, assortment, and packaging that is in accordance with Russian retailer needs and volumes.

Other factors that impede Central Asian farmers from receiving better prices in traditional markets are the high fragmentation of production, the informality and non-transparency of the region’s fruit supply chains, and both producers’ and exporters’ lack of knowledge of, and compliance with, retail requirements.

So what is the way forward?

To be competitive in Chinese and other evolving global fresh fruit markets, in which large modern retail chains play an ever-increasing role, Central Asian exporters need to be able to supply large volumes of fruit of consistently high quality in a timely manner.

National governments have a role to play in creating an enabling environment for the increased production and export capacity of horticulture products by tackling the most binding constraints that exist in the sector.

First, governments can provide a policy environment that facilitates cooperation among Central Asian smallholders. This way, the farmers will be able to consistently supply the large volumes of quality fruit required by importers.

Second, governments need to focus on promoting private investments in cold chain storage and post-harvest processing capacity and on investing in public goods, such as food safety and quality control systems, R&D, and export promotion.

Finally, the rapid growth of e-commerce around the world offers an opportunity for Central Asian exporters to penetrate new and growing markets in their region and beyond. Governments should do more, therefore, to promote the digital development of their respective agriculture sectors.


To learn more, read the World Bank report “Central Asia’s Horticulture Sector: Capitalizing on New Export Opportunities in Chinese and Russian Markets,” which analyzes opportunities for Central Asian fresh fruit exports in Chinese and higher-end Russian markets, and provides policy recommendations on how to take advantage of these opportunities.

The report is available in both English and Russian languages.

Publication announcement: “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, by Adrien Zenz

We wish to share news of a new publication concerning the unfolding human rights crisis in Xinjiang, a new report on mandatory birth control among Uyghur communities.  The full report may be accessed here:  https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Zenz-Sterilizations-IUDs-and-Mandatory-Birth-Control-FINAL-27June.pdf?x32765

New Publication Announcement: Конфликт на юге Кыргызстана десять лет спустя: Перспективы, последствия, действия, edited by Aksana Ismailbekova and Philipp Lottholz

We are pleased to share this announcement of a new publication from the Central Asia Program (CAP):  Conflict in Southern Kyrgyzstan After 10 Years: Perspectives, Consequences, Actions, edited by Aksana Ismailbekova.  The full text (Russian language) can be downloaded here: https://centralasiaprogram.org/archives/16310

and the English version can be found here: https://centralasiaprogram.org/archives/16380

Vera Zaporozhskaya – Scholar of Siberia, by Elena Okladnikova, (Herzen University) translated by Richard Bland (University of Oregon)

Editor’s introduction:

This special blog post was translated and shared with us by Dr. Richard Bland, currently a Research Analyst the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, who has translated a wide variety of volumes and materials related to Russian and Soviet archeology, including the biography of Aleksei P. Okladnikov, well-known archeologist of Soviet Siberia.  The material presented here was written by Dr. Elena Okladnikova, the daughter of Okladnikov and herself a Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia in St. Petersburg.

This blog presents an excerpt of Okladnikova’s original biographical article “V.D. Zaporozhskaya: Scholar of Siberia: The Gendered Aspect of a Personal History” – the original Russian version was published in 2017 in Women in Russian Society 3 (84): 80-92, and was translated by R. Bland in 2019.  That full text details the professional biography of Vera Dmitrievna Zaporozhskaya, the wife of Okladnikov, and mother of Okladnikova. Zaporozhskaya was herself a prolific archeological researcher, scientific artist, and photographer, who documented many Russian archeological expeditions in Siberia and Central Asia in the 1930s and 1940s, and who provided illustrations and design for the many volumes published on those projects (several of which are listed here below).  It is important to recognize that while certain scholars were credited for those works, in fact these are the efforts of teams of talented individuals.

We would encourage our readers to consider this personal biography in understanding the rich tradition of historical archeological research in Soviet Central Asia and Siberia, and to read alongside contemporary research on similar Paleolithic sites from Altai to Transbaikal, which informs our understanding of hominid migration across the region.

Kolobova, Kseniya A., et. al. (2020) “Archeological Evidence for two separate dispersals of Neanderthals into southern Siberia.”  PNAS 117(6). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918047117

Kuzmin, Yaroslav V. (2007) “Chronological Framework of the Siberian Paleolithic: Recent Achievements and Future Directions.” Radiocarbon 49(2): 757 – 766.

Li, Feng, et. al.  (2019)  “Heading north: Late Pleistocene environments and human dispersals in central and eastern Asia.”  PLOS 14(5).  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216433

Rybin, Evgeny. (2014).  “Tools, beads, and migrations: Specific cultural traits in the Initial Upper Paleolithic of Southern Siberia and Central Asia.” Quaternary International 347(1).  DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.031

***

Vera Dmitrievna Zaporozhskaya was born (30 September 1912) in Chita, Russia, her childhood and youth was spent in Irkutsk. After graduation from high school in 1928 she entered the Irkutsk Art College, which at that time was directed by the well-known in Siberian artist and teacher I. L. Kopylov, who first noticed her artistic talent. As early as her years of study at the college, Vera Dmitrievna felt her mission was to become a theater artist. She settled into work at the Irkutsk Regional Museum, where her father worked as a glazier. She worked in the museum from 1932 to 1933 as deputy director of the art gallery (Fig. 1). It was in the museum that she met a talented archaeologist, head of the Paleolithic Department, A. P. Okladnikov. Their wedding took place in June 1932. To her mother, who was then staying with relatives in Donetsk, Vera Dmitrievna sent a brief telegram: “Married, bless me, Vera.” [i] (Fig. 2).

Figure 1. Personal data sheet of V. D. Zaporoshskaya in the account of personnel. Yakutsk, Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History. (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

Figure 4. V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov. Irkutsk, 1932. (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

In 1933 she went to Leningrad with her husband, who entered graduate school at the State Academy of History of Material Culture (GAIMK) oriented toward “The History of Pre-Capitalistic Societies.” She was able to do much in these years: she entered the Academy of Fine Arts, then went to the school for lab work at the State Hermitage under the direction of the outstanding archaeologist M. P. Gryaznov; she also worked as a laboratory technician at the State Academy of Material Culture (GAIMK). At GAIMK Vera Dmitrievna finished courses for bookkeepers and accountants, as well as learning the art of documentary photography. From 1933 she worked in the Hermitage in the Department of the History of Pre-Capitalistic Society, and from 1936 to 1941 at the Institute of Material Culture. She completed archaeological courses at the Academy of Sciences and received the rank of Junior Researcher. As an artist in those years she helped to design scientific works and journals.[ii]

All spring-summer-fall seasons in the 1930s she and her husband spent on expeditions, organized at first by the Irkutsk Regional Museum, then by GAIMK. The materials from these investigations were the basis of work in the archaeological study of regions for future construction: the Angara, Ust’-Ilim, and Bratsk hydroelectric stations. The archaeological materials obtained were the basis of the books that were written then by V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov. [iii] In 1939 she and her husband discovered the presently world-famous Buret’ site. There they found the unique image of Paleolithic Venus—an anthropomorphic bone figurine in fur coveralls. It was Vera Dmitrievna who sketched the finds at Buret’, drew the plans of the dwellings, and conducted photographing of this unique Paleolithic site (Fig. 3).


Figure 3. V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov at excavations in Buret’, Angara, 1939 (Author’s archive, 2017).

Zaporozhskaya took an active part in field work for the study of Neolithic and Eneolithic burials in the Angara region, that is, in search of the “first Americans,” as called by the American anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, who met V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov on the Angara in 1939.That is where the artistic talent of Vera Dmitrievna and her sharp scholarly intuition were useful. In those years she masterfully executed the now classic reconstruction of the clothing of peoples of the Angara Neolithic period, included in all the textbooks on the history of the culture of peoples of Siberia. Its reconstruction is a brilliant example of integrated historical-artistic research: in costume are represented decorations of nephrite and mother-of-pearl fangs of Siberian deer, complementing the cut of the clothing, which combined the “Tungus frock” and the Tungus apron (Fig 4).

Figure 4: “Reconstruction of the decorated costume of a female shaman”, found at the burial site, published as drawing #175 in Okladnikov, 1955b.

The 1938 field season, and also seasons of the first post-war years, Zaporozhskaya spent in Central Asia, on the archaeological crew of her husband. The purpose of the work of this crew of the interdisciplinary archaeological expedition of M. E. Masson was the study of the Stone Age. It was in this expedition that the burial of a Neanderthal boy was discovered by Zaporozhskaya and Okladnikov. Publication of this find became the stellar hour in the scientific career of A. P. Okladnikov. In the post-war years Zaporozhskaya took part in archaeological study of the Turkmen deserts, in the discovery of a Mesolithic burial near Kailyu Cave, in the Neolithic “jewelry workshop” near Kuba-Sengir Mountain, and in excavations at Dam-Dam Chemshe Cave.

From 1941 to 1943 she worked in Yakutsk in the regional museum, and then from 1943 to 1945 in Yakutsk in the Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History (Fig. 5). In her autobiography dated to 1945 she wrote that she participated in eleven archaeological expeditions (Fig. 6). On 8 March 1945, by order No. 46 of the Science-Research Institute of Language, Literature, and History, as an artist and archaeologist of the Lena Archaeological Expedition, she was awarded acknowledgment “for good production work.”[1]

Figure 5. V. D. Zaporozhskaya. Yakutsk, 1945 (Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017).

[insert Figure 6.  These expeditions and sites were described in Okladnikov and Beregovaya, with forward by Okladnikova and translated by Richard Bland (2008).

In the 1940s, V. D. Zaporozhskaya and A. P. Okladnikov conducted field work in the Arctic. She spent six years on expeditions on the Lena River. This delicate woman “with a classic figure and long braid”[iv] paddled thousands of kilometers, that is, all the way from Kachuga village on the upper Lena to Tiit-Ary Island on the lower Lena. She learned to manage the sail, to feel the flow of the great Siberian river, to withstand bad weather and the “nizovka”—a treacherous wind that drags the boat not down but up the river. She infused much spiritual and intellectual force into her husband’s major work, Istoriya Yakutii [The History of Yakutia]:[v] she sketched, drew, photographed, made plans of excavations, and kept a field log. She and her husband jointly studied the winter camp of the first Russian mariners on Cape Baranov (Taimyr 1948), where she, as usual, participated in the excavation, was occupied with photo-recording the finds, and fearlessly carried out field processing of the finds while being constantly watched by hungry polar bears.

Zaporozhskaya was occupied with archaeological research in Kolyma and Tadzhikistan (1948), again returning to the Angara and Lena (1951), and working in Zabaikal’e [Transbaikal] (1947–1951). Up to the last days of her life, she was immersed preparing for publication of the large, now classic investigations of the rock art of Siberia and the Far East—Petroglify Srednei Leny [Petroglyphs of the Middle Lena], Petroglify Nizhnego Amura [Petroglyphs of the Lower Amur], and Petroglify Zabaikal’ya [Petroglyphs of Transbaikal]. On New Year’s Eve 1959/60 in the Leningrad apartment on Nevsky Prospect, V. D. Zaporozhskaya inscribed a dedication on the title page of the joint (with her husband) monograph Lenskie pisanitsy [Lena’s Writings]: “This book, Alyosha, I give to you—your inexhaustible creative flame, brilliant thought and boldness. Everything that I did in archeology, all this was done only for you. The pages of this book contain so much that is so dear to me, and to you. Preserve it. Vera. 31/12/1959.” [vi]  These lines can become the epigraph to this article. In them openly and clearly rings the declaration of this bright and talented woman in her love for her husband, archaeology, and sites of the ancient art of the peoples of Siberia.

In the 1970s and 1980s she became one of the leading organizers of the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia, Institute of History, Philology and Philosophy, Siberian Branch, Academy of Sciences, USSR.

References:

Michael, Henry N. 1970.  Yakutia Before Its Incorporation into the Russian State(A translation of A.P. Okladnikov’s History of Yakutia 1950[1955].  McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Okladnikov, A. P. 1955a.  Неолит т Бронзобый век Прибайкалья. Издательство Академии Наук, СССР.

Okladnikov, A. P. 1955b.  Материалы и Исследовании по Археологии СССР.  Издательство Академии Наук, СССР.

Okladnikov, A.P. and N. A. Beregovaya. 2008.  The Early Sites of Cape Baranov. (translated by Richard L. Bland).  Shared Beringian Heritage Program.

Endnotes

[1] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[i] The materials described through this excerpt are contained at the time of writing in the author’s own archive in St. Petersburg, and are cited here with permission.

[ii] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[iii] These texts were usually published with Okladnikov as author (e.g. 1955a, 1955b).

[iv] Author’s archive, St. Petersburg, 2017.

[v] Okladnikov’s Istoriya Yakutii [The History of Yakutia was published in 1950, republished in 1955, and was translated into English and republished as Yakutia Before Its Incorporation into the Russian State by Henry N. Michael in 1970.

[vi] Author’s archive, 1980s.

Rural women in Kazakhstan: double vulnerability, by Kamila Kovyazina (Independent Scholar)

This blog presents some of the results of the study of rural women’s economic possibilities in Kazakhstan, conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in April 2019. The basic method of research was a mass survey of the target group;  the number of respondents amounted to 1400 women in five mega-regions, including southern, northern, western, eastern and central parts of the country. The study used a stratified multistage territorial randomized sample, representing the target group by age and region. Additionally, in-depth interviews were held with rural women from different social groups, such as independent workers, housewives, businesswomen.

The main hypothesis of this study was that rural women are extremely limited in their economic possibilities (including labor possibilities), compared to rural men as well as to urban women. In Kazakhstan on the whole, the average woman is poorer than the average man. This is proved by the size of average salary – women are paid 38% less than men. At the same time, the rural population has less income on average than the urban population. The Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan provides the following data: in the fourth quarter of 2019, city dwellers’ had a monthly income per capita on average  67 971 tenge, while rural population received on average 47 306 tenge per capita. The difference is almost 20 000 tenge! This all brings us to a conclusion that rural women may face a double economic vulnerability, because of their gender and place of living.

The results of the above-mentioned study confirm the hypothesis. Rural women tend to be in poor economic situation and have low labor opportunities. A quarter of rural women are housewives, and around 29% of respondents have only secondary education. Half of the respondents report to have a household income per capita less than the normal living wage. There are two significant factors contributing to women’s limited economic possibilities which should be considered:  on one hand, this is associated with the narrow labor market in the countryside. On the other hand, rural women are the ones who take care of the household chores and infants or children, which predetermines their lower opportunities to get education and better job.

Economic conditions

The survey showed that half of rural women have less income per capita than the normal living wage in Kazakhstan in 2019, which was 29 698 tenge.

Graph 1. Household income per capita of respondents

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The survey also demonstrates that most rural women have a low level of purchasing power – only about 18% of them are easily able to buy durable goods, such as utilities or a TV.  Only 49% of rural women get enough income for food and clothing. Every fourth rural family faces challenges to buy clothes, including those 4% of respondents, who don’t have enough income even for food.

Table 1. Purchasing power self-assessment

                                                                              Purchasing power Share
We do not experience financial difficulties and, if necessary, we may acquire a car or apartment Higher than the average 3,2
We get enough income for everything, except very expensive acquisitions, such as a car or apartment Higher than the average 14,5
There is enough money for food and clothing, but buying durable goods is difficult Average 49,0
There is enough money for food, but buying clothes is difficult Lower than the average 22,2
Not enough money even for food Lower than the average 4,1
N/A 7,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Economic conditions differ according to the number of family members in a household, but one general rule applies: the bigger the family, the worse the situation. A larger family size presupposes more children, including infants, which causes forced unemployment of rural women. Because they are primarily responsible to look after children, as well as for household chores, women are limited both in work and education possibilities, which leads to durable unemployment.

Graph 2. The purchasing power of respondents, according to the size of family

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, according to the results of the survey, rural women can not be rightly called dependents. Only 37% of rural families have a man as a main earner. This is true mostly for the previously-mentioned large-sized families. Husbands are named the main earner in families with bigger number of children. Respondents, who chose this option, are mostly Kazakh-speaking, with secondary education only. In another 21.1% of homes,  both spouses contribute equally to the total household income. In every fifth rural family, the main earner is a woman, and another 10% of families live off their wife’s allowance or pension.

Table 2. Sources of income

                                                                              Share, %
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the countryside) 25,6
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the nearby town/city) 11,2
Equally, my husband’s earnings and my earnings 21,1
My earnings, income (work in the countryside) 15,6
My earnings, income (work in the nearby town/city) 4,3
Husband’s pension, social benefits 1,7
My pension, social benefits 9,8
We are financially helped by relatives, adult children 3,5
The main income comes from our farm, etc. 3,2
Parents’ earnings 1,1
Other 1,9
Difficult to answer 1,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Rural women may serve as a main earner before getting married for their natal families and/or before the birth of their first children, usually, after getting education in the city. Respondents at the age of 18-24, who have higher education, and are usually bilingual, more frequently report that their earnings are the main source of income for their household. Respondents at the age of 35-44, who are bilingual and who have a higher education, tend to earn at an equal level with their husbands. After their children got old enough to take care of themselves, educated women get a chance for self-realization later in life.

Lower labor possibilities

According to the survey, two key features of rural women’s employment can be distinguished. Firstly, the proportion of those who are not part of the workforce is high: a full quarter of the respondents are housewives, and 12,4% are retired. Secondly, women tend to work in a limited number of spheres; wage employment prevails in organizations funded from the state budget (23% – state employees, 5% – civil servants). These are mostly schools, medical institutions, or akimats of rural districts.

Graph 3. Type of employment

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The leading sphere of employment of rural women is, apparently, education (27% of respondents work as tutors, or teachers, 5% of rural women are preschool workers). Around 30% of employed rural women, on the whole, earn their money providing services (financial, cleaning, social, beauty services and other).Another popular sphere for the employment of rural women is trade and warehousing; 16% of respondents are engaged there. In traditionally agricultural spheres only about 6% of the women surveyed are employed: 5,3% of respondents are engaged in growing seasonal crops, 0,9% – are raising sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits. This is the sign of crucial changes in rural economy, which becomes, on one hand, more complex, on the other – more urban-like.

Table 3. Field of activity

  Share, %
Tutoring, education 27,2
Wholesale and retail trade, warehousing 16,0
Financial services, consulting, marketing 7,0
Cleaning services (room cleaning) 6,0
Medicine (traditional and non-traditional) 5,6
Government worker 5,5
Growing seasonal crops – vegetables, fruits, gourds 5,3
Preschool worker 5,1
Production of bakery and confectionery products 3,9
Beauty industry (cosmetology, hairdressing, manicure, etc.) 3,0
Tailoring 2,7
Private carriage – taxi and cargo delivery services 2,7
Social services (caring for children, the elderly, sick people, etc.) 2,0
Construction, repair of premises, interior design 1,3
Self Employed Entrepreneur 0,9
Livestock – breeding sheep, cattle, pigs, rabbits 0,8
Unemployed, temporarily not working, maternity leave 0,8
Photographers, artists 0,7
Repair of clothes, shoes 0,4
Other 2,9
No answer 0,1
Difficult to answer 0,1

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Taking into account that in 15% of rural families either husband or wife earn money outside their village (see Table 2), the countryside provides an extremely narrowed labor market.

Opportunities for education

As mentioned above, women can participate in the workforce and serve as income earners when they are educated enough. However, rural women assess their education possibilities as being quite low. Answering the question on how much time they may spend on education, almost every second woman says she has no time at all. What’s more, the less educated women are, the more rarely they are ready to spend time on this type of activity.

During in-depth interviews rural women also exposed the problem of a poor education infrastructure in villages. While in villages with the status of district centers there are several schools, colleges and even development centers, in remote smaller villages there are no school and colleges at all, not to mention development centers.

Graph 4. How much time per day can you devote to yourself?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

 One of the barriers for rural women’s higher education and training and, as a consequence, worse labor possibilities, is their basic level of education. Almost, a third of them obtained only secondary education, and around 40% have vocational education.

Graph 5. The level of education

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

According to the study, trend is changing. Among younger rural women the share of respondents with higher education is 20% bigger, than among the elder ones.

Table 4. Level of education, by age

Secondary education Vocational education Higher education Not finished higher education N/A  Total
Aged 18-24 20,8% 34,0% 31,9% 12,5% 0,7% 100,0%
Aged 25-34 17,2% 36,6% 42,5% 1,9% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 35-44 31,4% 36,7% 29,3% 0,8% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 45-54 32,3% 39,8% 25,2% 1,6% 1,2% 100,0%
Aged 55-65+ 42,4% 44,3% 12,9% 0,4% 100,0%

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, their style of life doesn’t seem to give them a chance to self-develop and build new opportunities, which creates a new level of problems, as outlined here below.

Awareness and effectiveness of state programs

In recent years Kazakhstan’s government has created a number of labor programs, one of the main target groups of which was the country’s rural population. Most of these programs were merged into one complex State Program “Enbek” (2017-2021), which included program for relocation citizens from labor-deficient to labor-surplus regions, business development, providing micro-loans, and other measures.

However, the survey shows that these measures don’t have any effect on rural women for three primary reasons. First, all of the state measures require spare time and full involvement, which rural women don’t have.  Second, most of the rural women were not informed about the availability of these programs, due to a narrow circle of information sources. Almost every second respondent had never even heard of state employment measures. Though the target groups of employment programs are unemployed and self-employed people, the level of awareness about these programs among such women is even lower than among other groups of rural women. Third, even those who participated in state programs were not sure about their purpose or effectiveness. Among the 4-9% of respondents who participated in some of state programs, only half of them think they were useful. In-depth interviews show that most of the trainings were designed for people with higher qualifications. Rural women simply didn’t understand some of the themes they were taught.

Graph 6. Did you participate in the following measures to improve employment?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

One of the key directions for governmental programs, the implementation of which is expected to improve employment in rural areas, is the development of entrepreneurship. In this area, it is planned by State Bodies to educate those who wish to do the basics of business and to provide microloans. However, as rural women report during in-depth interviews, business start-up trainings, conducted by employment centers, are not adapted to their needs. Recall that almost 30% of rural women have only secondary education!

As for loans for opening or developing a business, 40% of rural women are interested in them, but only 13% of them believe that they would actually be able to obtain a loan.  Over a quarter – 27% – believe that these opportunities are very small or that they do not exist at all.The more educated and wealthier are respondents the higher they assessed their chances to get a business-loan. The main reason why banks are most likely not to give them a loan, in respondents’ perception, is that women have low income and In this regard, self-employed and unemployed rural women, who have the highest demand for a loan for business development, are less likely to get one.

Graph 7.  Self-assessment of their chances to get a business-loan

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Conclusions

The study conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in 2019 demonstrates that rural women, on the one hand, are very poor. On the other hand, they are extremely limited in terms of opportunities for education and employment, although they show a high willingness to work.

However, in my opinion, women can become a new driver for development of rural area, and this perspective is supported by several factors from the data.  The study shows the inevitable changes in gender roles and primary earners for households. There are many cases in which a man ceases to be the main earner in the family; he plays such a role only when a woman is busy caring for young children and doing domestic labor. As soon as a woman is freed from these obligations, she often seeks to find a paid job. Additionally, in the countryside there is a changing perception of the value of education, a change which led to the fact that among younger respondents the share of respondents with higher education was larger. This is one of the main factors, which affects the labor opportunities of respondents, their earning potential, and the perception of their chances to get a loan for the business.

Rural women also demonstrate their ability to adapt to the changes in rural economy:  around 30% of employed respondents work in service sphere, including financial, beauty, social services. Thus, rural women need to be considered as one of target groups for  labor programs, which presupposes a more specialized and narrow approach when creating state measures. Further research is required for understanding the business-potential of rural women in each region and for developing such employment and business measures, which would correspond to their needs.