About the country
Tajikistan is a landlocked low-income country in Central Asia. In 2011, Tajikistan celebrated 20 years of independence. After a difficult first decade of independence, marked by civil war and economic decline, important political, economic, and social reforms were launched at the beginning of the twenty-first century to ensure sustained growth and improved human development.
Since Tajikistan declared independence in 1991, the population has increased by approximately 40%, which represents over 2 million people. As of 1 January 2013, the population of Tajikistan was 7.9 million people. Tajikistan has large cohorts of children, adolescents and young adults, reflecting previously high fertility rates. The average age is under 25 years, 33% of the population is less than 14 years old, young people aged 14-30 years make 35% of the total population, while the population aged 15– 59 years comprises 60% of the whole population, with just 5% being aged over 60. Population projections indicate that, in the next two decades, the number of children, particularly in the age group of 5–14 years, will continue to increase by as much as 10%. Such trends create the demographic setting in which young age dependency ratio is relatively high and old age dependency ratio is low, with many young workers entering the labour force. This ‘youth bulge’ will require specific policies and actions on the part of government to ensure that educational and employment opportunities exist, so that a ‘demographic dividend’ may be experienced. This will expand demand for public services, as well as a need for human capital investments. The population density of Tajikistan is 56 persons per square kilometer, however, the population is unevenly distributed among the regions. The population is concentrated in the cultivated lands and in the industrialized urban areas. The majorityof the population, i.e. 73.6% live in rural areas. The geographical terrainwith 93% of mountainous territory and only 7% arable and the fact that Tajikistan lies in the seismically active zone makes the country uniquely prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, mudslides and landslides.
Tajikistan made significant efforts towards sustained economic growth over the past few years and had notable achievements. Nevertheless, Tajikistan remains the poorest country in the Central Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States region with the lowest $880 Gross National Income per capita (Atlas method) and 7.633 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to the World Bank, the rate of absolute poverty has fallen from 72.4% in 2003 to 47.2% in 2009, while the extreme poverty rate declined from 41.5% to 17.5% respectively. According to the Living Standards Improvement Strategy of the Republic of Tajikistan for 2013-2015, the poverty rate estimated based on the elasticity of poverty to economic growth and actual GDP growth stands at 38% for 2012. Poverty continues to be a major cause of deprivation of children, particularly those living in rural areas. Households with a large number of children have a higher incidence of poverty, making children more vulnerable throughout the life cycle.
Tajikistan has significant manifestations of inequality, with higher levels of deprivation for certain geographic locations and population groups. Trends in data indicate significant poverty dynamism depending on the area of residence. The absolute poverty remains higher in rural areas than in urban areas (49.2% vs. 41.8%). The extreme poverty rates in rural and urban areas have changed differently over time. From 2007 to 2009, while extreme poverty in urban areas decreased (from 18.9% to 17.5%), rural extreme poverty increased (from 16.4% to 17.5%). Moreover, while in 2007 Sughd had the highest incidence of poverty, in 2009 the poverty rates in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) were approximately 10% higher than both in Sughd and the national average.
Birth registration of children under five improved between 2000 and 2005 from 74.6%to 88.3%, but stagnated ever since. The 2012 Demographic Health Surveyresults show that 18.3% of children under age five are not registered or are registered but do not have a birth certificate. This indicates that almost one in five young children in Tajikistan is potentially at risk of being unable to claim full legal rights and services because their birth is not registered (11.6%) or they lack a birth certificate as proof that the birth was registered (6.8%). Children under age two are more than twice as likely as older children aged 2-4 years not to be registered or to be without a birth certificate (26.5% versus 12.3%). The likelihood that a child’s birth certificate is not available decreases as the wealth quintile increases, from 23.5% in the lowest quintile to 15% in the fourth and highest quintiles.
The welfare improvements over the last decade were to an important extent related to rising remittances from labour migrants. As a percentage of GDP (48%), Tajikistan was the top recipient of remittances in 2012. Analysis of the 2009 TLSS data indicates that 29.7% of families have temporary migrant workers. Families with children are more likely to have a migrant member in the household (31.6%) compared to the families with no children (20%). The current flow of migrant workers comprises predominately men (95.3%). A UNICEF study on the impact of migration on children left behind finds that increased household income due to remittances plays a huge role in smoothing access to healthcare and education for migrant households. The study finds a positive impact of remittances on perceived children’s nutritional status, food diversity, morbidity, as well as school attendance and years of schooling. But this is true particularly for households where the migrant continues to send remittances, whereas in abandoned households, children score significantly worse on all socio-economic parameters. The social costs of migration can be high, due to family disintegration and lack of parental care. Evidence from both qualitative and quantitative research showed that children left behind had the tendency to become withdrawn, sad and depressed. This was more common with girls than boys, and particularly pronounced for children in abandoned households. Moreover, depression in abandoned households sometimes extends to mothers who have to deal with the burden of raising their children alone.
Girls and women face major inequalities in Tajikistan. According to the World Economic Forum, Tajikistan ranked 90th out of 135 countries with the Global Gender Gap Index of 0.668 in terms of gender inequality in 2013. Gender disparities are most notable in the areas of health, education and participation in politics. Thus the country ranked 123rd with score of 0.956 in female health and survival, 110th with a score of 0.899 in female education attainment, and 100th with a score of 0.891 in political empowerment. Traditional patriarchal social-cultural practices establish negative public opinion against women who violate traditional gender roles and not only limit their decision-making within the household but also create barriers for their territorial, social, and labour mobility. Women are also subject to gender-based violence, both within the household and in the public domain. Early marriage can be seen as more desirable for girls than pursuing their studies. According to 2012 DHS, 11.6% of women aged 20-24 were married for the first time before age 18. Particularly where poverty is acute, traditional gender values come to the fore.
Agency on Statistics, 2010. Population and Housing Census 2010, Volume 1.
World Bank, 2007. Population Issues in the 21st Century: The Role of the World Bank, HNP Discussion Paper.
World Bank, 2012. World Bank Databank 2013.
Tajikistan Living Standard Panel Survey, Information Brief. State Committee on Statistics, World Bank, 2009./ UNICEF, 2012. Situation analysis of children and women’s rights in Tajikistan (reanalysis of TLSS 2003, 2007, 2009 data).
Tajikistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, State Committee on Statistics, UNICEF, 200 (unpublished).
Tajikistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. State Committee on Statistics, UNICEF, 2005.
Tajikistan Demographic and Health Survey. Agency for Statistics, Ministry of Health, Measure DHS, 2012.
Migration and development brief. World Bank, 2013
Oxford Policy Management and UNICEF, 2011. Impact of Labour Migration on “Children Left Behind in Tajikistan”.
World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, 2013.
Agency for Statistics, Ministry of Health, Measure DHS, 2012. Tajikistan Demographic and Health Survey.