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poverty in TajikistanNestled in between Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan sits in Central Asia among its sprawling mountain range. In the past decade, major oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tajikistan which has kindled the hope of stimulating the nation’s struggling economy and of shifting their economic power back to them. As of 2018, around 27.4% of the population in Tajikistan lived below the national poverty line. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan:

10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan

  1. Not all regions of the country are grappling with poverty to the same extent. In the northwest region of Sugd, the poverty rate was 17.5% in 2018. In the region just below, the Districts of Republican Subordination, that rate was almost doubled at 33.2%.
  2. Poverty seems to affect rural areas of Tajikistan more severely than urban areas. Farming cotton, one of Tajikistan’s main cash crops, has been shown to do very little for mitigating poverty levels or maneuvering individuals out of poverty. Those with non-agricultural jobs, however, in urban areas like the capital, Dushanbe, can go to Russia to find work. This is a common occurrence. As of 2018, the poverty rate in urban Tajikistan stood at about 21.5%, whereas the rate for rural Tajikistan was at 30.2%.
  3. The rate of poverty reduction in Tajikistan has decreased. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of poverty dropped from 83% to 31%. Since 2014, the national poverty rate has slowed to dropping by 1% each year.
  4. This slowing rate of poverty reduction can be attributed to a lack of job creation and stagnating wage growth. With a lack of new and improved jobs to stimulate the economy, much of the workforce turns to employment in Russia; this does little to stimulate Tajikistan’s own economy.
  5. A reported 75% of households have concerns about meeting their family’s basic necessities over the next year. Tajikistan is the poorest and most distant of the independent former Soviet Union states. In the first nationally conducted survey since the war ceased and Tajikistan gained its independence, studies found that more than 95% of households failed to meet the minimum amount of food consumption to be considered appropriately sustained.
  6. Tajikistan has a prevalence of child malnutrition and stunting; this has been attributed to inconsistent access to clean water and food. Many households spend more than they can truly afford to obtain drinking water. For the 64% of people in Tajikistan living below the national poverty line, this means incurring extra expenses while already making under $2 a day.
  7. For every 1000 inhabitants, there are only 163 places to live. Tajikistan has the lowest housing stock in the Europe and Central Asia regions at 1.23 million units. This can largely be attributed to the government no longer being able to provide public housing, while private owners have no extra money to invest in or maintain the upkeep of properties.
  8. 35% of Tajikistan’s population is under the age of 15. In the world’s wealthier nations, this number hovers at about 17%. A disproportionate amount of youth in the population means more problems for the burgeoning workforce as they struggle to earn an income: especially in a place where the economy may not be ready to respond. This could further the stagnation of Tajikistan’s economy, with frustrated young workers leaving to find work in other nations, as many are already doing.
  9. As many as 40% of Tajiks in Russia may be working illegally. Tajikistan relies on remittances from Russia. This is paired with Russia’s increasingly strict administrative processes for foreigners seeking work. Due to these two conditions, The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ reported number of one million Tajiks working in Russia per year is questionably low. Between 30% and 40% of households in Tajikistan have at least one member of the family working abroad.
  10. The literacy rate in Tajikistan is 99.8% as of 2015. Primary education is compulsory and literacy is high, though the skill level in youths has been decreasing. This is due to economic needs calling the younger population away from their education in search of an income to help meet their daily needs.

Tajikistan has been climbing its way out of poverty since it has gained its independence in 1991. However, the nation’s over-reliance on remittances has allowed for its own economy to stagnate. This has resulted in a hungry workforce and few jobs to supply them. Groups like Gurdofarid work to try and empower the Tajik workforce; they teach women vocational skills that are needed for them to become employed in their own country.

-Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Tajikistan

Poverty in Tajikistan remains a problem. Tajikistan is frequently cited as the poorest former Soviet republic, with one of the world’s lowest GDPs per capita (ranked 192). While it is a place that Americans do not hear about often, USAID has been busy in the country of just over eight million inhabitants for more than 20 years, almost as long as Tajikistan has been a sovereign nation.

 

Poverty in Tajikistan: Key Facts

 

1. Proportional to GDP, Tajikistan has one of the largest remittance economies in the world.

Due to a scarcity of secure employment opportunities, which contributes greatly to poverty in Tajikistan, more than one million Tajik citizens leave the country searching for work. The money that these Tajiks send home equals more than half of the entire country’s GDP. The vast majority of these migrants—90 percent—travel to Russia.

2. Poor infrastructure stagnates the Tajik economy.

Tajikistan is landlocked and sits in the northwestern Himalayas, one of the most mountainous regions on the planet, making transportation a challenge. Trade with other nations, which is important to the country’s economy, relies on a dilapidated railway system. The diminutive electricity market means energy infrastructure is also lacking. Power shortages and outages are rampant, especially during the winter.

The future for Tajikistan’s infrastructure may, however, be looking up due to foreign investment, which may alleviate some of the poverty in Tajikistan. Recently, Chinese investors funded new road construction in Dushanbe, the capital. Russia and Iran have also invested in hydroelectric plants, including a dam on the Vakhsh River that may become the world’s largest.

3. Tuberculosis is a growing public health problem.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is disproportionately high in many central Asian countries, including Tajikistan. The country’s healthcare system is ill equipped to respond to this issue, lacking adequate information systems and human resources. Most funds for fighting TB come from international assistance.

MDR-TB is a complicated public health challenge, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with the government and aid groups to improve and monitor Tajikistan’s ability to treat TB and stave off MDR-TB.

4. Most of the population does not have access to clean water.

Nearly 60 percent of Tajik citizens rely on unsanitary water supplies. Many depend on irrigation ditches for drinking water, meaning waterborne diseases are common. Diarrhea is the sixth leading cause of death in children under five.

While these statistics may seem bleak, water quality is a relatively straightforward issue to tackle. USAID has made notable strides in providing better access to clean water, one of its main focuses in Tajikistan. According to its website, USAID has “established 56 community-level water users’ associations,” helping the Tajik weather and water forecasting agency better manage the country’s vast supply of fresh water.

5. The civil war destroyed one out of five schools in the country.

Funding for education decreased drastically after Tajikistan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1992. The following five years of fighting destroyed or damaged a significant portion of the country’s schools. Naturally, such collateral destruction has contributed to the precarious state of the education system.

Since the fighting, the country has either struggled to or failed to revive school systems. According to the latest reports from UNICEF, schools are overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed, with many teachers working triple shifts. Furthermore, dropout rates are high, especially for girls.

The state of Tajikistan’s education system leaves much to be desired. However, organizations like USAID and UNICEF have partnered with the Tajik government. They are determined to nurture this fragile system to a point where it can sustain itself, mainly by focusing on preventing dropouts and improving equity and access.

In many ways, Tajikistan seems to lag behind its neighbors in the Central Asian region. With a strong memory of war and political upheaval, coupled with uncompromising geography, the country has struggled to develop.

But international aid organizations have shown great ambition and, partnered with the Tajik government, achieved tangible successes in reducing poverty in Tajikistan and its burdens. Likewise, international investment from the private sector suggests promise and hope for a society that has much to gain.

Charlie Tomb

Photo: Pixabay