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By Faromarzi Olamafruz
DUSHANBE – In Tajikistan, where citizens often feel compelled to choose between staying jobless and moving to Russia, government officials are trying to solve the unemployment problem.
About 60% of the country's 7.6m people are working age, but only 55,000 of them are registered as unemployed. However, officials and analysts agree that the real number of jobless is at least 10 times as high. Roughly 1m Tajik citizens are in Russia and Kazakhstan working or looking for work.
The Labour and Social Security Ministry hopes to tackle this problem at the local level through employment and re-training centres opened nationwide in 2011.
Akbar, a resident of Dushanbe, tried his luck at one of the 19 centres. He could not find work after graduating from Tajik National University. When he was offered a position as a security guard, the job required knowledge of computer and communications systems.
“In Soviet times, guards did almost nothing,” said Akbar, who finished the re-training courses. “They just kept unauthorised people out of buildings and [made sure] all the electrical appliances were shut off … But now, it’s all different.”
The centres offer training for 40 vocations, including those that migrant workers find useful, Alisher Faromurzov, the director of the re-training centres, said. “We are trying to draw in people who are planning to migrate in order to improve their situation,” he said.
Fifteen of the 40 trades are in demand in Russia’s labour market and 27% of the centres’ graduates become migrant workers, Faromurzov said.
“We teach girls skills for the restaurant business and cooking European and Tajik cuisine, computer skills, accounting, English and offer hairdressing courses,” said Faromurzov. “Guys learn trades such as electrician, plumber, jeweller, waiter, and bartender.”
International organisations funded three-month-long training courses in Germany and Kyrgyzstan for the centres’ teachers, he said.
The centres are to train 40,000 Tajiks annually, free of charge, at the order of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. The centres have already trained 34,000 workers in their nine months of existence, Faromurzov said.
“One of the important tasks for us is to give some kind of job skills to the migrant workers, who often comprise a low-skilled labour force,” said Faromurzov.
Some problems arise because these centres’ certificates are not real diplomas and the centres themselves do not have licenses, Dilbar Halilovra, director of the NGO Fidokor, said. This situation leads to domestic and Russian companies not taking the certification seriously.
Halilovra’s NGO has also opened several centres in remote areas to help mainly young girls acquire at least some professional training. “We basically teach them sewing and cooking. These are not very high [qualifications], but this is still gainful employment,” she said.
“Most graduates of such courses go on to work in the private sector since it is hard to find work in the public sector with only certificates,” Surayo Shudozhat, a freelance journalist who writes on social issues, said.
The centres are trying to assist their graduates, directing them to a variety of job fairs that the Labour and Social Security Ministry holds, Faromurzov said. He said there were 1,517 job fairs in nine months last year, that helped more than 4,000 people find work.
These fairs and courses are especially good for recent school or university graduates who just need some sort of training and work, Muslima Latipova, a sociologist, said. “After that, it will be easier for them to find their place in society,” she explained.
Aziza, a graduate of a re-training centre in Dushanbe, said that now she can work as a seamstress and will be able to provide for her two children and herself.
“My parents married me off quite early, so I never finished school. Then, my husband left me for another woman and threw me out with two children. I didn’t know how to do anything. The centre helped me.”