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Kyrgyzstan’s unrest drives up unemployment
Government promises new jobs
By Erkin Kamalov
BISHKEK – Cholpon Abdykalykova, 32, managed a store in one of Bishkek’s elite shopping centres. But, after April’s riots, the mother of two was left jobless.
“Looters ransacked the mall where I worked,” she said. “The head manager told me that I needed to find another job. … The stores where I was willing to work even as a clerk would not take me.” Political instability has thrown thousands of Kyrgyz citizens out of work. (Read more on the Kyrgyz unrest.)
Store managers prefer to hire younger staffers because they are cheaper and more mobile, Abdykalykova said. “I am ashamed to admit that my parents help us. Recently, a large Turkish supermarket opened … I hope to find a job there.”
For the past two years, Aibek Salmanov, a fourth-year student at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, worked at the Issyk-Kul resorts and was able to pay most of his tuition.
“This year, almost none of the foreign tourists showed up. … So now I have to moonlight in Bishkek as a waiter in a bar. The pay is low (US $11-$21 per month),” he said. Now, he has to ask his parents for help with school costs.
“The country’s unemployment has increased,” said Institute for Public Policy analyst Anara Musabayeva. “There was already an employment crisis (before 2010’s unrest).”
Over the past six years under Kyrgyzstan’s National Population Employment Policy for 2010, labour supply surpassed demand by an average of 32%, she noted.
“The riots that took place in both northern and southern Kyrgyzstan increased the numbers of jobless,” said Musabayeva. “The exact rate of unemployment is unknown, but its large scale and protracted nature are clear even without the numbers.”
Labour, Employment and Migration Minister Aigul Ryskulova reported that the ministry had hoped to reduce unemployment from 10% to 9% in 2010. Instead, it’s presiding over growing joblessness.
“According to the State Statistics Committee, there were 65,500 unemployed people registered in Kyrgyzstan on April 1, 2010. … It is difficult to say what (the numbers now) are because those citizens who had work before April and before the Osh events simply lost it,” Ryskulova said.
Dzhamolidin Husanov was a tandoor bread baker for nine years in Osh before he lost his business. “I sent my family members to Russia … I live off international humanitarian aid. I thought about starting my business again, but I fear for my life,” he said.
Many others share his situation, he said. “A friend of mine started fixing cars again, but as soon as he opened his garage, the police took him away. … Allah only knows what tomorrow will bring!”
Many in southern Kyrgyzstan’s art and media sector are swelling the jobless ranks.
“I worked in Osh’s local television station DDD”, said journalist Muazzam Zainabetdinova. “We are no longer on the air because we can’t broadcast on the old schedule. We lost the advertisers … so then we simply lost the pay (they provided).”
The same has happened to journalists elsewhere in Osh.
“Our newspaper was distributed through shopping centres and stores,” said Lochin Mirzahojayev, editor-in-chief of the Osh newspaper Itogi nedeli. “As soon as the June 11 events began, we stopped publishing our printed edition. We lost both our main distributors and potential advertisers.”
Many of his acquaintances are trying to support themselves by growing and selling vegetables and fruits, he said.
“I sometimes lose heart, but … we must look forward and overcome our difficulties,” he said. “Not long ago, my friends called me and offered me a job as a temporary bus driver. … I have to do odd jobs to feed my children.”
The situation isn’t hopeless, officials insist. “Beginning August 1, Osh will begin construction of ten multi-story apartment buildings for (riot victims),” Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiyev said July 22 at a news conference. “We are going to need workers, so everyone who is now unemployed can apply.”
In Bishkek, the Labour Ministry has organised professional courses for 597 jobless residents, a ministry representative said. The ministry plans to launch the same programme in Osh and Dzhalal-Abad.
Husanov and his neighbours are hoping to find work in rebuilding Osh’s infrastructure: “I am ready to do unskilled labour so long as the pay is regular. When I served in the army, I did construction finish work. … This experience may be also useful.”