The ILO and Uzbekistan working together towards an employment strategy amid the Covid-19 crisis

Despite the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, on April 3, 2020, a tripartite online conference was organized on the background report for the preparation of the new Uzbekistan National Employment Strategy. Representatives of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, employers’ and workers’ organizations, together with the ILO national and international consultants analyzed the labour market, national and sectoral employment policies and identified ways to ensure the transition to formal and more productive jobs.

News | 03 April 2020
The representative of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ms. Adiba Nuruddinova, stressed that the new strategy aims to address the presence of a large informal sector, labour migration, and increase the number of citizens applying to the public employment services for assistance in finding jobs. She mentioned that the employment policies should take into consideration the Presidential Decree enacted on March 19,"On priority measures to mitigate the impact on the economy of the coronavirus pandemic and global crisis".

The ILO national consultants, Mr. Ildus Kamilov and Ms. Janna Fattakhova, who prepared the background report, said that the new strategy was timely as Uzbekistan is facing new challenges coming from an accelerated urbanization, transition from the informal to the formal economy, and increasing labour mobility both of migrant workers, and internal migration and across sectors which need integrated policy responses.

The preparatory works were officially launched in September 2019 by Mr.Mukhitdinov, the First Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, during the event titled “A way forward to the Uzbekistan national employment strategy”, where the ILO report toward employment friendly macroeconomic policies was discussed.

During the video conference a more in-depth labour market analysis was discussed. According to the ILO international experts Ducan Campbell and Per Ronnas, Uzbekistan is characterized by a dual economy. Since 2005 the non-corporate sector has accounted for the entire employment growth, while employment in the corporate sector has stagnated.  Looking ahead this trend seems likely to accelerate as large numbers of often inefficient state enterprises are privatised and restructured. However the non-corporate sector is still predominantly informal. Support to the growing non-corporate will require a comprehensive package of policies facilitating the transition to more productive and formal jobs.

The participants expressed a concern about how the employment strategy might be influenced by the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time they considered how this employment strategy could help to support economic development beyond the current crisis.
Ramiro Pizarro, ILO Moscow official, recognized that the meeting was an opportunity to discuss how the employment policies addressing structural economic problems, at the same time could become useful tools for responding quickly to economic crisis. He presented the ILO report on country responses to the crisis summarized in three pillars: protecting workers in the workplace, stimulating the economy and labour demand, and supporting employment and incomes. These three pillars are components of critical importance in the ILO strategic framework for employment policies.

The oncoming discussions will cover the role played by the employment protection regulations and social security schemes, such as paid leave, unemployment insurance and public works, within the context of a sustainable economic development strategy, and how several innovative measures deploying now for supporting M-SMEs could play a role in facilitating transition to formality.

An important conclusion was that successful policies responses need to have in place the right institutions and procedures. In many countries the public employment services are already overwhelmed by the surge in applications, and they do not always have the capacity to quickly disburse these extra benefits, a disastrous delay for families already in financial stress. Strong labour market institutions and employment services can help to deliver quick response to economic crisis. The current discussions about the new Uzbekistan employment strategy was also a good opportunity to assess how strong and appropriate for crisis response are the labour market institutions, and social and employment services in Uzbekistan.

The ongoing work is organized within the framework of the ILO Project “Partnerships for Youth Employment in the Commonwealth of Independent States” implemented by the ILO Moscow with the financial support of the Russian private company LUKOIL.