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Uzbekistan: Women Are Less Paid, Less Educated, Less Equal

In the annual report by the World Bank, “Women, Business and the Law”, Uzbekistan ranks 127th in the gender equality index scoring 70.63. This figure is below the average global score 74.71 and the lowest among CIS.


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For example, some women in Uzbekistan may not go to an interview just because they are not permitted to leave house. If a woman manages to come to an interview, in most cases the employer won’t hire a woman.

Women are poorly represented in decision-making in Uzbekistan. Their share in the managerial staff is below 2 per cent.

Tanzila Narbaeva, deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, chair of the Committee of Women of Uzbekistan:

“We have launched a project to develop the female workforce who can take an active part in the state and public management in order to help women to leading positions. We have over 3 thousand of them. The emergence of women who want to take certain positions in state administration speaks not only of the level of their active participation, but also about the change of conscience and outlook of the family, especially males.”

Alla Kuvatova, sociologist, candidate of philosophical sciences, associate professor of RTSU:

First of all, public servants must be gender-sensitive and break established gender stereotypes via media, and also promote the strategies of enhancement of women’s role in the society, and not be afraid of sharing the power with women at all decision-making levels.

The country has vertical gender imbalance. The share of women in 2017 among the heads of enterprises and organisations was 11.7 per cent.

In the sphere of education, with most women involved, almost two-thirds of principals of general education schools are males. Gender imbalance in men’s favour can also be seen among their deputies.

Yuly Yusupov, independent expert, director of the Centre for Economic Development:

Women, as a rule, are more prone to compromises and concessions than men.  Therefore, those around them take them as foreign elements in the prevailing hierarchical models. It causes difficulties in career and managerial functions. Also it causes insignificant roles in the family decision-making.

A share of employed women in the sector of employment is almost half as high as of men. According to the research of the International Labour Organisation, 80 per cent of people of Uzbekistan prefer that man earns money in the family, and woman takes care of the house and children. And 93 per cent of people think that a woman must perform household duties even if her husband is unemployed.

Yuly Yusupov, independent expert, director of the Centre for Economic Development:

Sometimes, chaotic “protection of women’s rights” causes harm to them. Especially when “protection” costs are shifted to others. Thus, in Uzbekistan employers must be responsible for the payment of maternity benefits, although it is the responsibility of the state. As a result, employers are unwilling to employ young women as they are afraid of their maternity leave in future.

Since July 2017, the minimum age of admittance of children to preschool institutions is 3 years old. It means that the majority of women miss at least three years of their professional experience. According to law, a man may also go on a parental leave, but it doesn’t happen in practice.

A man may also go on a parental leave, but it doesn’t happen in practice.

Let’s assume that a woman and a man are employed at the same time to the same position with equal pay. If the woman gives birth and goes on a parental leave, the man will have an advantage in terms of career growth.

We should also remember about the working hours of kindergartens: the majority of them work till 18:00. A woman should leave work earlier or find other options (negotiate with neighbours, parents of other children, staff of the kindergarten, relatives) to be able to take a child from the kindergarten. In majority of cases, men are relieved from this burden.

It’s not surprising that many women choose to stay at home and lose their professional skills. The number of 3-6-year-old children who attended kindergartens in 2017 was about 25 per cent. It means that almost 75 per cent of children were brought up at home.

However, the country faces the horizontal gender imbalance by sector-based employment. The majority of women work in health and education sectors. The least of them work in financial, IT spheres and transportation.

Tanzila Narbaeva, deputy of Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, chair of the Committee of Women of Uzbekistan:

“Gender issues should be the responsibility not only of women’s organisations, as executive officers deem sometimes, but should also be integrated into the work system of absolutely all organisations. Today women are actively involved in diverse spheres. For example, we hold the annual contest “100 innovative ideas of women in Uzbekistan” and see how they become more interested in “non-traditional” occupations.”

Uzbekistan now sees that women tend to work more in lower-paying sectors. They often receive lower-paying vacancies or are employed in spheres with lower salaries. 

Overall, the salary of women is 35 per cent below the men’s salary. From the employer’s point of view, a woman is a less valuable asset because she’s focused on the family, according to gender attitudes, not on professional growth and private interests.

However, according to experts, women are subject to gender stereotypes as much as men are by transferring them to their children.

Tanzila Narbaeva, deputy of Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, chair of the Committee of Women of Uzbekistan:

“Today, we have made decisions which increase the salary of educational, health workers many times and we will continue this process. This year, together with the International Labour Organisation, we are going to study the situation of women in the labour market. The findings of the study will determine our further actions that will help eliminate the gender inequality in the labour market.”

A university degree gives an opportunity to aspire to higher paid jobs. But in 2017, the share of women with a university degree among people aged 25+ was 12.5 per cent, and men – 20 per cent.

Since high school education is mandatory for all, gender balance is maintained at schools. Later on, the situation changes in favour of men.

Tanzila Narbaeva, deputy of Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, chair of the Committee of Women of Uzbekistan:

Given the fact that girls created families right after graduation from colleges and vocational schools, they obviously didn’t get a university degree. The reforms in the educational system as a whole, expansion of the network of higher educational institutions, introduction of distance and evening programmes to universities will expectedly improve the level of education of women and they will be able to combine study and family responsibilities.

The traditional society of Uzbekistan believes that the main task of a woman is to take care of home and children. This approach relegates the importance of girls’ education, while a job is either considered as a supplement to main women’s responsibilities or not considered at all. Parents take care of a girl before marriage, and a spouse takes care of her after the marriage.

Yuly Yusupov, independent expert, director of the Centre for Economic Development:

“We should eliminate gender stereotypes as well as violations of rights and freedoms of women through school curricula, propaganda, personal examples, and special projects protecting gender equality and suppressing any forms of gender discrimination. However, in reality, getting rid of such cultural stereotypes is a time-consuming process. We should be patient and work hard to break the existing stereotypes that women have.”


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor