Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, a country of 18 million inhabitants located between Russia and China, has been battling poverty since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The following top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan show that despite the country’s independent economy being so young, there is a lot to be hopeful for about the future of the Kazakh economy.

This hope, in turn, leads to more programs and opportunities that help to alleviate poverty; however, Kazakhstan’s economic infrastructure still remains a somewhat volatile environment — despite booming energy and agricultural industries — due to corruption and over-dependence on global energy markets.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan has a large agriculture market and is the sixth largest wheat producer in the world. The agriculture industry employs nearly 18 percent of the nation’s working population but only yields between 5-7 percent of their GDP. Nearly 80 percent of cultivation is done with machinery near the end of its lifecycle — local production of tractors, combines and other farm machinery are mostly non-existent, causing a large tab for importing expensive farming equipment mostly from Russia. This low return on investment (ROI) for Kazakh farmers leaves little to pay a significant percentage of its workforce; this lack can then leaves employees in the agricultural industry near or below the poverty line.
  2. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a $158 million initiative to establish cooperatives to support small to medium-sized farms. These coops aim to help offset the low ROI for small, rural farmers by helping with buying new machinery, storage and transport products, veterinary services and other business costs.
  3. Kazakhstan is the world’s third largest producer of oil. Oil sales account for roughly a quarter of Kazakhstan’s GDP and about 60 percent of its total exports. The nation also has massive reserves of natural gas, coal and uranium. Astana, Kazakhstan was host city to EXPO 2017 for Future Energies. Due to Kazakhstan’s over-dependence on sales of oil and material reserves, its economy is still largely at the mercy of worldwide energy prices. The sharp decline of oil prices in 2014 had such a widespread effect on the Kazakh economy that its currency — tenge — was devalued by 23 percent by 2015.
  4. Chevron invested $36.8 billion for an expansion to Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field. The massive Kashagan field also began production in October 2016 after years of delays and $55 billion in development costs. Kazakhstan had a 10.5 percent increase in oil production in 2017, helping the economy climb back after the spike in oil prices in 2014.
  5. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is actually quite low. Those living below the $1.90/day rate in Kazakhstan was estimated to be 2.6 percent in 2016, and the unemployment rate was estimated to be 5 percent in 2017, according to the CIA World Fact Book. These numbers, though promising, are quite deceptive. Kazakhstan’s annual income per capita in 2017 was only $3,010, which equals about $8.25 per day.
  6. Corruption is rampant in Kazakhstan. Companies cite corruption as being the number one constraint for doing business in Kazakhstan, according to a 2016 GAN Business Anti-Corruption report. Earlier this year, former Kazakh Economy Minister, Kuandyk Bishimbayev, was sentenced to 10 years on corruption charges. This comes just three years after a case was brought against 21 Kazakh public officials on corruption-related charges.
  7. Kazakhstan suffers from a complex form of regional poverty disparity. Since Kazakhstan is quite young, the government is still underdeveloped in rural areas. The U.N. is working with Kazakhstan to address this phenomenon. Developing infrastructure and education opportunities in poor, rural areas is just a few examples of how they are addressing the problem.
  8. Kazakhstan has achieved nearly 100 percent literacy rate. Kazakhstan has an estimated 99.8 percent literacy rate and a school life expectancy (the total number of years a student can expect to go to school) of 15 years — from primary schools to tertiary educations (such as universities) and trade schools. Kazakhstan currently has a $67 million loan from the World Bank Group for modernizing education. The objectives of this loan are to improve curricular standards, increase learning outcomes in rural and disadvantaged schools and increase citizen engagement.
  9. The World Economic Forum ranked Kazakhstan 57th out of 144 countries in its 2017 Global Competitiveness Rankings. This ranking represents a falling of four spots from the previous report. The cause of this decline in ranking, and the “most problematic factors for doing business” with Kazakhstan, according to the report, include lack of access to funding, corruption and an inadequately educated workforce.
  10. Kazakhstan has a thriving NGO sector. One such NGO is Wonder Foundation, based out of the U.K. Wonder is a charity dedicated to helping girls, women and their families access education and support needed to defeat poverty. The organization is currently working on helping young women gain access to skills, educations and rights in Almaty and the surrounding area.

A Young, But Mighty Nation 

These top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan prove that poverty is not an insurmountable problem for the Central Asian state. The country’s GDP is steadily climbing while the nation works to be a major player in the oil and raw materials markets.

Kazakhstan also works to diversify their trading portfolio, enacting state programs to bolster secondary industries in the country and improve working and living conditions for their residents.

Economic sustainability is a slow and steady process, and Kazakhstan is heading in the right direction. At just 27 years old, these top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan are indicative of a young country that has the potential to be at the forefront of world oil and agriculture markets and, someday, a significant participant in the global economy.

– Nicholas Hodges
Photo: Flickr


labor unrest
Protesting has emerged in Cambodia since the first of 2014. Chevron employees demand wages to be increased from $110 to $160 a month. Over 200 workers from the multi-million dollar company, Chevron, have organized a strike for salary increases. The strike has forced 17 of Cambodia’s Chevron gas stations to temporally close until the strike is over.

The Chevron employees have also been joined by several of the country’s garment factory workers in protesting to raise not only the company’s wages, but the national minimum wage to $160 a month.

Because Chevron is a U.S. company, Cambodia is reaching out to the U.S. government officials for help. The thoughts among Cambodia’s factory and service workers have pushed the labor unrest to continue. Laborers in Cambodia‘s large textile industry staged strikes and protest late last year and in the beginning of 2014 for a higher minimum salary and has steered toward political resistance.

The Cambodia Daily states that local worker “Ly Heng, a 29-year-old gas pumper at the Stung Meanchey station, said he is only paid $75 per month and wanted to join the strike but had feared losing his job.”

Chevron released a statement stating, “We are disappointed that our unionized service station colleagues have taken the drastic action to stop work instead of following legal processes to resolve the matter that would have enabled us to continue the supply of fuel products and minimize inconvenience to the public.”

Chevron has been working with authorities to ensure the safety of civilians and the workers participating in the strike.

In the past, Cambodia has seen a fair share of wage strikes. The garment factory strike was a great success with an estimate of over 200,000 workers that participated. This made it one of the largest garment-worker strikes in the history of Cambodia.

So far this year, factories in Cambodia have enforced an inspection of current safety related policies due to the six deaths related to a garment factory accident. The deaths have resulted in not only a strike, but further inspections on current wage circumstances in Cambodia.

The strikes from the garment workers have inspired other members of the work force to fight for higher wages.

Teachers demand $250 a month because the current $75 a month is not a livable wage. According to the Cambodian Independent Teachers Union, there are 87,000 teachers in the country. Several of these teachers protested for higher wages, shocking Cambodia with the current salary that they receive.

The strike ended with Chevron’s agreement to increase the monthly wage by $20 back in May. The agreement stated that workers would head back to work and end the strike. The Chevron cashiers will have their salaries increased to $150 and petrol pumpers will make $130. Also, the Chevron employees participating in the strike will not receive a pay dock from the time spent during the wage strike.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Associated Press, The Diplomat, Global Post
Photo: VOA

Some big-name companies and corporations gave large donations last year to assist in the fight against poverty. According to a U.S. study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, corporate philanthropy actually increased by 2.7 percent in 2012, contributing significantly to poverty reduction initiatives worldwide. Big businesses decided to give and, most importantly, give more. Of the businesses that made up the majority, the most influential of those in terms of global poverty were Walmart, Chevron Corporation, Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

Walmart is one of the top ten companies that give the most charitable donations. Walmart donated $311,607,280 in cash and $755,868,381 in products to 50,000 different charities in 2012. Since the creation of their “Fighting Hunger Together” campaign in 2010, the company has given away over 1 billion pounds of food to people in need. They have partnered with Feeding America, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, and Unilever to provide meals to these people. Their Golden Spark campaign also assisted in this effort. Through October 14, 2012, Walmart randomly awarded 40 “Golden Sparks” valued at $50,000 each to consumers who participated in the Fighting Hunger Together Golden Spark promotion. The winners chose a community to receive the funding to start or expand a backpack program that provides vital meals to food-insecure children during weekends when they do not have access to free and reduced-price school meals.

Chevron Corporation gave $262,430,000 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The corporation’s largest grant last year was $11 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation. This donation went towards fighting poverty in Nigeria through increasing local incomes, employment opportunities, and promoting economic health.

Goldman Sachs gave $241,278,912 overall last year. Its biggest contribution to the fight against global poverty has been its creation of the 10,000 Women project. This project provides women around the world with educational opportunities in areas such as business and management in order to attain independence. It also offers them access to positive mentors. Overall, the project focuses on empowering women to obtain networking and career opportunities. Women such as Linlin, who is now involved in early childhood education in Beijing, China, attest to the project’s helpfulness. “10,000 Women taught me the fundamentals of business management,” Linlin said. “It also helped me become braver and more confident.”

Exxon Mobil gave $213,374,183 in cash and $2,433,200 in products. Its grants mostly contributed to science and math education as well as career opportunities for women. It donated almost $3 million to Vital Voices Global Partnership, which supports the Business Women’s Network efforts in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Malaria No More received $1.8 million. This corporate giving was used to expand the organization’s NightWatch program, a malaria communications platform that uses celebrity voices to reach vulnerable populations through text messaging, television, radio, and music, reminding them to put up mosquito nets. The program has gained support from celebrities, leaders, businesses, and even endorsement from the Ministry of Health. It has empowered families to keep themselves safe from the threat of malaria by ensuring education is present in places such as Tanzania and Cameroon.

JP Morgan Chase & Company gave $183,471,434 overall last year. Specifically, it donated $2,180,000 to GAVI Alliance to improve global access to immunizations. A triumphant success story regarding the foundation’s donation can be viewed here: Donation Supports Roll Out of Two Vaccines in Ghana. These pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines are meant to combat pneumonia and diarrhea – illnesses that account for 20% of Ghana’s child mortality rate.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walmart, Chevron, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Goldman Sachs,, NightWatch Program, GAVI Alliance