« Back to Results

Thirty Years since Dissolution of the Soviet Union – Social Effects of Transition in Central Asia

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)

Hosted By: Association for Comparative Economic Studies
  • Chair: Elizabeth Brainerd, Brandeis University

Civil war, famine and the persistence of human capital: Evidence from Tajikistan

Louise Grogan
University of Guelph, IZA and University of Central Asia


The persistence of health and early childhood education investments is examined for children under age six in the most isolated and least fertile region of the former Soviet Union. During the 1992-96 Tajik Civil War, famine engulfed the mountainous border province opposing the new central government, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. This economic collapse is reflected in substantially lower adult heights of women who were children during this period. Nevertheless, contemporary data suggest the persistence of strong incentives to invest in human capital. Greater final educational attainment and later ages at marriage persist for famine-affected women than for those in the neighbouring border province, Khatlon. Early childhood educational interactions between adults and children are more frequent in Gorno-Badakhshan and child anthropometry scores are better. The persistent emphasis on human capital after war is consistent with a locational imperative to earn incomes outside of agriculture in Gorno-Badakhshan.

Land Reform and Child Health in the Kyrgyz Republic

Olga N. Shemyakina
Georgia Institute of Technology
Katrina Kosec
International Food Policy Research Institute


Does the establishment of private property rights to land improve child health and nutrition outcomes? We exploit a natural experiment in the Kyrgyz Republic following the collapse of socialism, whereby the government rapidly liquidated state and collective farms containing 75 percent of agricultural land and distributed it to individuals, providing 99-year transferrable use rights. We use household surveys collected before, during, and after the privatization reform and spatial variation in its timing to identify its health and nutrition impacts. We find that young children aged 0-5 exposed to land privatization for longer periods of time accumulated significantly greater gains in height and weight, both critical measures of long-term health and nutrition. Health improvements appear to be driven by increases in consumption of home-produced food—suggesting that increased private control over household production may translate into increased consumption and thus health dividends for young children.

Feminization of Agriculture in Tajikistan

Nozilakhon Mukhamedova
University of Giessen and Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Agricultural Mechanization Engineers (TIIAME)


A striking feature of Tajikistan's economy since the civil war has been the feminization of agriculture; the proportion of women in the agricultural labor force increased from 54% in 1999 to over 75% in 2015. This paper reports on evidence of the phenomenon from two surveys in 2003/4 and 2019, analyzing variations over time and understanding women’s role in irrigated agriculture
between the north and south of the country.
While the feminization of agriculture is most obviously related to the large number of, primarily male and rural, migrant workers from Tajikistan, which had the world's highest remittances/GDP ratio in 2013, the paper identifies a broader range of causes and consequences of feminization. The study suggests that women have diversified and expanded their occupational opportunities in agriculture making substantial contribution to their family income. However, they are fully or partially excluded from formal institutions such as social security, education and limited in access to land use rights, finance and production inputs.

Pre-school Education and Nurseries for Younger Children and Women’s Labor Force Participation in Kazakhstan

Mieke Meurs
American University
Maigul Nugmanova
Narxoz University
Aizhan Salimzhanova
Narxoz University


Over the past 15 years, the government of Kazakhstan has expanded policies to facilitate combining family responsibilities with employment, for both women and men. The Strategy for Gender Equality in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2006-2016 identified gender equality in the economic sphere and strengthening of the family priority areas for state policy. Labor legislation enshrines norms on the rights of parents to flexible forms of employment and parental leave, and government policy promises support through social benefits and services. Childcare services for children 3-6 years of age have expanded rapidly. Nonetheless, the female labor force participation rate has changed little. In 2019, it remained at 64.8%, down slightly from its peak of 65.6 in 2008 (worldbank.data.org). In this paper, we draw on the data from the EBRD Life in Transition Survey from 2006, 2010 and 2016 to examine how the increased availability of care has affected the labor force participation choices of Kazakhstani women. In interpreting the results, we consider both historical patterns of women’s employment in Kazakhstan and international experience using childcare expansion to promote women’s labor force participation, as well as a small in-depth survey of 300 households in the Almaty region in 2019 regarding use of government-provided services. We suggest ways that the government might further adjust policy in order to achieve its goal of increasing gender equity in Kazakhstani workplaces while ensuring adequate provision of care.
Marsha McGraw Olive
Johns Hopkins University
Sumner La Croix
University of Hawaii
Aditi Roy
University of Adelaide
JEL Classifications
  • P2 - Socialist Systems and Transitional Economies
  • O5 - Economywide Country Studies