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Photoreport: Tajikistan: Few Jobs, Many Candidates

Many men left without work due to the coronavirus in Tajikistan are forced to stand for hours waiting for employers at ‘mardikorbazars’.


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‘Mardikorbazar’ in Dushanbe. CABAR.asia
‘Mardikorbazar’ in Dushanbe. CABAR.asia

‘Mardikorbazar’ is the special place in Tajikistan, where men ready to work are waiting for the employer or the client who would offer them the job. ‘Mardikor’ is the term for a worker for hire. The specialists of any sphere can be found here. Mostly, they are builders, from specialized highly professional specialists to general workers. In other words, these are the markets for hiring the workers. Such markets exist in almost all cities of the country. Usually, they are located randomly, near the crowded places, on the roads, near large markets or shopping centers.

Every year, from 400 thousand to one million migrants from Tajikistan leave for labor migration, mainly to the Russian Federation. This year, due to the pandemic, Tajikistan, just like other countries, closed its borders in March, so many men who previously went to labor migration were left at home without work.

The labor market in Tajikistan cannot provide everyone with jobs, and the crisis due to the pandemic has reduced the number of jobs even more. According to official data, over six months, 71,772 people applied to Tajik employment agencies, 32,372 people were provided with jobs, 29,656 received the unemployed status. These figures are not too high for the 9.5 million population of the country. However, even they do not demonstrate the whole unemployment situation. Most citizens do not apply to state employment agencies, but search for job on their own. The Employment Agency explains this by the fact that the salary in the jobs for unemployed is much lower than people want, so the majority prefers to search for a job on their own.

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 ‘Mardikorbazar’ demonstrates the whole situation. This year, more healthy men ready to work for any money can be found here. As soon as a potential employer who usually arrives by car appears, a crowd of men rushes to this car to offer their services.

While this photoreport was shot, there were very few employers. We saw only two persons around whom a crowd of workers gathered. Only a few people got jobs during that day.

A crowd of people willing to get a job surrounds each employer. CABAR.asia

The coronavirus affected not only the labor migration. Many construction projects in the republic were also frozen; employers have no money to pay construction workers, so some of them also joined the ‘mardikors’.

The crisis due to the pandemic affected the lives of Tajik men. CABAR.asia

A group of ‘European-style repair workers’ under the leadership of Alisher from Dushanbe, never had difficulty in securing the work. However, during the last five months they are also forced to join the workers’ market and look for employers in this bazaar. There are many people like them here: construction workers from among labor migrants and those who had to take the long unpaid leaves from the construction sites in the capital.

Suhrob Huseynov cannot leave for Russia, where he has a good job. CABAR.asia

Suhrob Huseynov came on vacation from Russia, where he worked for many years, to visit his wife and children. After the borders closure, he was not able to return. The money that he brought from labor migration ran dry already, and now, in order to provide for his family with four children, he has to search for a job together with others in this uncontrolled labor market. According to Suhrob, he has a very popular profession: he is a professional welder with an honors degree. However, even for specialists like him, it is difficult to find a job now. He had to reduce the price for his services. There are many other professionals willing to work for much less.

The high-level specialists with their own equipment can be found at ‘mardikorbazar’. CABAR.asia

Usually, most employers are looking for workers here for one-day work and, mainly, to perform unskilled, “black” labor. Although each of them has a certain qualification and profession, in the absence of an order related to their specialty, they are ready to do any job: build a fence, dig holes, demolish brickwork, mow grass, concreting, plastering. Employers usually offer such work for one day.

Workers at this ‘mardikorbazar’ were affected by the pandemic and coronavirus, but somehow they ignore the risks to their health. Wearing protective masks and social distancing are not followed. The main question that interests them and that they constantly discuss, ask each other and everyone who passes through this market, is “When will the flights to Russia resume?”

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