Welfare Cuts in Uzbekistan
Cuts to family benefits and pensions caused by a shortfall in government revenues are likely to increase hardship in Uzbekistan.
Under a scheme unveiled in late December, the government is reducing the scale of child benefits and stopping them after the age of 14. Until now, families with dependents up to the age of 18 were eligible to claim child benefit. The new rules that families with one child will receive benefits worth 22 US dollars a month instead of 27 dollars.
Malohat, a mother of three in northwestern Uzbekistan, was shocked by the news.
"My husband earns 250,000 soms [85 dollars] a month. I'm not working – I stay at home and take care of the children. Benefits have kept us from starving, and now they are taking this small amount away,” she said.
Welfare benefits in Uzbekistan were already lower than in many comparable post-Soviet states like Kazakstan and Ukraine.
On January 14, the authorities announced a reduction in the list of hazardous jobs where employees could claim extra pension benefits and apply for early retirement. Twenty categories are being cut, including workers in the coke industry and in electricity substations where mercury is used in components.
A worker at a Tashkent substation who was planning to retire in two years’ time said he felt cheated.
"Now the state is depriving us of what little we were due for working in a dangerous industry,” he said.
Dilmurad Kholmatov, an independent economist based Tashkent, said that while benefits had been maintained at a stable level for years, but now the government was unable to meet that commitment.
According to another economist, Bakhtiyor Inogamov, “There is no money in the treasury, so benefit payments are increasingly unaffordable for the government budget.”
This article was produced as part of IWPR’s News Briefing CentralAsia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.
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