More Horrifying Economic Stats for Tajikistan - New Report
Living standards in Tajikistan, the former Soviet Union’s poorest country, are in free fall, says a study of socioeconomic indicators released last week. For years, Tajik laborers – as many as a million of them, or half the work force – have migrated to Russia and Kazakhstan in search of work. At one point their remittances may have contributed up to half the country’s GDP. Though 87 percent of families report remittances have fallen, the report finds that migration remains a “key survival strategy” for one-third of Tajik families. Almost a third of migrants have returned since the crisis began. Analysts fear this influx of unemployed men could destabilize the country. Conducted by the NGO Panorama in Dushanbe, and sponsored by DFID, the British government development agency, the findings are grim: almost 60 percent of those who say they need medical care are forced to treat themselves; roughly 40 percent say they cannot afford enough food, while 70 percent report they rarely eat meat. I caught up with Sobir Kurbanov, DFIDs Central Asia Economic Advisor, who told me that the majority of Tajiks are living in “survival mode.” Yet this is not necessarily new, he added.“The crisis for Tajik households is systemic … and it existed even before 2009,” he said. The fact that some migrants kept leaving for Russia shows Tajiks “don't trust at all the government anti-crisis policies. It also means that [people do not trust] government job creation efforts.”“We hope that these sorts of surveys will be taken more seriously by both the government and development partners to allow improvements in the allocation of development aid to reach those most vulnerable,” Kurbanov said. The survey – “The Social Impacts of the Global Economic Crisis in Tajikistan” – covered 1,500 households nationwide between September and December of last year. First presented in Dushanbe last week, the findings have not been posted on the Internet and thus have received little attention. I am pasting selected key findings here:
• 93% of surveyed households reported deterioration of social indicators during the crisis • Crisis affected Tajik households via (a) decrease in labour migration; (b) falling incomes and deteriorated living standards; (c) losing jobs by household members both domestically and abroad• 1/3 of all households receive remittances, while for 25% of them remittances are the main source of income• During September 2009 (compared to September 2008) 44% of migrants returned home but 13% went back after, so net migrants return was 30% during the crisis. Labour migration is the key copying/survival strategy of Tajik households amid crisis• There is doubling number of households which reported the difficulty to buy basic foodstuff during crisis• 87% of households reported falling incomes coming via remittances; 76% report falling incomes from the loss of temporary informal jobs; 69% report falling incomes from selling agricultural products; 25% report loss of permanent jobs• Due to decrease in revenues and raising prices on foodstuffs the majority of households had cut their spending on the proper nutrition.• Over 70% of examined households buy cheapest foodstuffs and rarely eat meat. In nearly 40% households it happened that there was no food in the house due to lack of money to buy them. Besides, sometimes food is bought in debt• Despite net returning migration and impressive agriculture growth (10% in 2009), only 21% of households pointed out income from rural agro-farming as a revenue source. • Labour migration will remain the key survival strategy for the majority (1/3) of Tajik households• 25-30% of households cannot afford to continue tertiary education for their children• Among those who mentioned that they were in need for medical care but didn’t seek it - 58,1% of household members turned to self-treatment, using unreliable traditional and non-traditional methods of cure
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.
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