ILO and Uzbekistan: cooperation that goes beyond child labour and forced labour

Uzbekistan’s ability to create enough decent jobs will be the key factor to enable and sustain the ongoing reform process. This was stated by the participants of the roundtable “Sustaining reforms through decent work” held on 5 February in Tashkent.

News | 05 February 2020
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (ILO News) – The round table was attended by Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairperson of the Uzbek Senate, Heinz Koller, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, a representative group of specialists from the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, led by the Director of the Office Olga Koulaeva, Beate Andres, Chief of Fundamentals Branch, ILO Geneva, Helena Fraser, UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan, heads of the Ministry of Employment Labour Relations, employers' and workers' organizations as well as representatives of international organizations, expert community and the media.

As speakers noted, today the Government has undertaken major reforms to promote growth, employment, and sustainable development, such as liberalizing the currency exchange rate, promoting policies to increase private sector competitiveness, reducing Government involvement in the agricultural sector and diversifying the sector to shift away from cotton and wheat production, discontinuing forced and systematic labour mobilization in the cotton sector.

It is true that cooperation between Uzbekistan and the ILO has expanded significantly and goes beyond child and forced labour."

Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairperson of the Uzbek Senate
“It is true that cooperation between Uzbekistan and the ILO has expanded significantly and now it goes beyond child labour and forced labour,” said Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairperson of the Uzbek Senate. “The large-scale tasks of economic and social reforms reinforce the need to review the public employment policy, and in this matter we rely on the ILO technical and expert support.”

Specific measures implemented in the cotton sector, such as monitoring and wage increases for the cotton pickers, have had a tremendous impact in reducing the use of forced labour. However, strengthened overall labour market governance is the only way for Uzbekistan to ensure these gains are sustained.

“Today we agree that forced labour is becoming a practice of the past in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan,” said Heinz Koller, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “We have been able over the past few years to also start addressing other key labour market governance and development challenges.”

The first official visit of the ILO Director-General to Uzbekistan in December 2018 marked a new important stage in further strengthening constructive cooperation between Uzbekistan and the ILO and created a solid basis for deepening the trusting dialogue. More attention has been paid to other ILO strategic objectives, including the support to a new national employment policy, analysing the position of women in the labour market, transition from an informal to a formal economy, and strengthening public employment services.

“We must develop new approaches to address the problems of the labour market today,” said Nozim Khusanov, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, speaking at the  session that focused on reforms to create more, better and sustainable jobs. “One of these approaches is to develop a National Employment Strategy - a long-term action plan for the next 5-10 years aimed at covering the entire sphere of employment and labour relations.”