Uzbekistan Public Work Programme proved effective in responding to COVID-19 job crisis

The Uzbekistan Public Work Programme (PWP) was one of the most effective responses to the job-crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

News | 21 April 2022
Additional funding, improved strategic management, new areas for public-private employment intensive investments, along with enhanced coordination between employment and social protection policies allowed to double PWP annual coverage. It also guaranteed higher wages and more sustainable and productive employment opportunities.

According to Erkin Mukhitdinov, First Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, “engaging unemployed people in paid public works and paying workers better salaries have been very important, as it gives workers self-assurance and confidence in their work. Earning their own income also gives them hope for their future and help to keep their families out of poverty”.

The Public Work Programme, which the government introduced during the pandemic, aimed to swiftly respond to the unrolling employment crisis triggered by the COVID-19 health and economic downturn. The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations requested the ILO’s technical assistance in reviewing the existing procedures, in accordance with the new mandate of the PWP to increase the programme’s overall effectiveness and efficiency, making it one of the drivers for a sustainable job-rich labour market recovery.

Critical reforms were introduced to improve the registration process, screen and select applicants and enterprises, monitor and supervise the implementation and build stronger local public-private partnerships for employment.

Salohiddin Samadov, Director of the PWP, explains that by setting the minimum wage as reference for the PWP salaries and allowing more flexibility for the contracts, extending their duration up to 6 months, the programme more than doubled labour incomes of its participants. “The PWP was also able to target poorer families owing to the improved coordination and information exchange between different databased managed by the employment centers and social assistance services”.

The PWP expanded into new areas such as health services, significantly reinforcing national capacities to respond to the COVID 19 pandemic. Inobat Bakirova, a nurse from the Andijan region, graduated from a medical technical school and applied for the PWP at the Employment Promotion Center.  “My salary was paid in a timely manner. The Progamme provides income, allows me to feed my family and guarantees education and clothing for my children”.

Innovations were also introduced to the entrepreneurship programmes, complemented with vocational and technical education.  Umida Sultanova, from Tashkent, recollects: “The Fund helps entrepreneurs to rent small equipment and productive tools without a deposit or any other requirements. Sewing was a new profession for me. I had to  acquire new skills, learn how to sew and got knowledge about textile production”.

Ramiro Pizarro, Chief Technical Adviser for Youth Employment at the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who assisted in the institutional assessment and reorganization to the Uzbekistan PWP concludes: «Uzbekistan presents a good example on how Public Works Funds have been critically important in assisting workers and employers in times of the employment crisis. The International Labour Organization strongly supports the philosophy of continuous improvement towards full application of the International Labour Standards in all areas, including the activities of the Uzbekistan Public Works Fund”.

In despite of all the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperation between the ILO and Uzbekistan has remained dynamic and deep, giving a high priority to employment policies that can facilitate the transition from immediate crisis response towards a job-rich economic recovery.