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Pensions in Central Asia: Struggling for Survival (infographics)

65.6 million people live in the four countries of Central Asia, including 7.8 million pensioners. In other words, every eighth resident of Central Asia is on pension. 

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Here we are going to discuss how pensioners live on the average in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan statistics is not available.

The majority of pensioners – almost 3.5 million people – live in Uzbekistan. 2.8 million live in Kazakhstan, which ranks the second. Kyrgyzstan has 760 thousand pensioners, i.e. every eighth resident of the republic. The least number of pensioners is in Tajikistan, 665 thousand people, as well as the ratio to the general population – every thirteenth resident is on pension. In Kazakhstan, this ratio is almost twice as large – every sixth Kazakhstani receives pension benefits.

The least difference between the retirement age and the life expectancy in men in Kyrgyzstan is as little as four years, in Kazakhstan – six years. The highest life expectancy in men is in Tajikistan, although the retirement age is the same as in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Thus, Tajikistani male pensioners will be receiving pension nearly for ten years, whereas Uzbekistani male pensioners will be receiving pension for eleven years due to the early retirement.

Female pensioners have a more optimistic situation. The difference between the retirement age and the life expectancy varies from 17 to 21 years. The lowest difference in this category is in Kyrgyzstan, while the highest is in Uzbekistan as women there live one year more compared to the Kyrgyzstani women, and go on pension three years earlier.

However, it is worth mentioning that life expectancy is a relative concept. It doesn’t mean that the majority of men in Central Asia die at the age of 67-73 years old, while women die at 75-77. The life expectancy is the arithmetic mean of the actual number of years lived by a certain cohort of people. For example, there are ten people who lived up to 100 years old and ten people who lived up to 50 years old, the life expectancy of these twenty persons would be 75 years.

Pensioners in Central Asian states are rather vulnerable because their pensions are often sufficient only to meet their basic needs, while in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan they are well below the subsistence level.

After paying all utility bills, a pensioner in Tajikistan has only five dollars, which is ten times below the subsistence level.  Here he can buy a kilogramme of beef or buy bread every other day for five dollars.

The net balance of pension in Uzbekistan after paying all utility bills is 24 per cent below the subsistence level, i.e. Uzbekistani pensioners have to reject a part of essential goods and services.

In Kyrgyzstan, pensioners have 81 dollars after paying utility bills, with 69-dollar subsistence level, i.e. pensioner can afford to buy medicines necessary for elderly people for 12 dollars. For example, Cardiomagnil (150 mg) that prevents thrombus formation and stroke costs around five dollars in the chemist’s shop. Usually, pensioners are prescribed several items of similar medicines.

The best situation is in Kazakhstan – after paying utility bills pensioners have 116 dollars left, while the subsistence level is 76 dollars. Despite the deplorable situation, there are also positive changes. Thus, for example, Kyrgyzstan adjusts pensions on an annual basis and increases them by 3.6-5 dollars every time.

Uzbekistan signs decrees on increasing the salaries, pensions, scholarships and benefits every year. The latest increase was 10 per cent.

Kazakhstan is planning to increase pensions after 2020 – minister of labour and social protection of people of the Republic of Kazakhstan Birzhan Nurymbetov in his interview to Kazinform said that pension payments are raised 2 per cent above the inflation rate every year, and pensions are going to be raised to all categories of pensioners in 2020.

There is no news about pension increase in Tajikistan any time soon, but the report of TajikTA on the increase in salaries of state employees, pensions and scholarships by 15-30 per cent in 2018.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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