On the Development of Women’s Medium and Small-scale Business in Kazakhstan (UN, 1997)
In our country there are 8.5 million women who account for 51.38 per cent of the total population. In all as of January I, I996, 49% of the women were employed. It should be recalled that the employment rate for women in the Republic of Kazakhstan is relatively high in comparison with other countries of the Asian region.
A distinguishing characteristic of female employment is the fact that most working women are found in education, health care, commerce and social services. In government employment centers women accounted for 50.5% of the applicants. Unemployed women for the most part have work experience, have previously held jobs, have a high-school education, and are in their prime working years.
Among those women officially designated as unemployed, 45% live in rural areas. The average length of their unemployment is five months. The Ministry of Labor and the state employment service are taking measures to help unemployed women in finding jobs. The government’s job assistance program, which is revalidated annually, includes a special division, “Employment of Women,” which provides for active measures to implement it. One effective way to help disadvantaged groups to find jobs is still the use of job quotas. In this way every year one-fifth of the unemployed are placed. Special attention is given to vocational training, retraining and upgrading of the skills of unemployed women, and this is the most effective form of social assistance provided by the republic employment service, financed by the State fund for assistance to employment.
In today’s circumstances the development of women’s small and medium-scale business is taking on special significance.
Women’s involvement in business is caused by market conditions, and is a kind of alternative to unemployment, unpaid domestic or poorly paid work in the state sector.
Women’s opportunities for participation in business are determined by their rather high educational level, the need for the development of the service sphere of the cottage industry, and traditional national handicrafts, areas in which women have experience and skills.
The development of women’s role in business is a positive factor in many respects, since entrepreneurial activity, inter alia, is one of the best forms for self-expression and self-fulfillment. It also builds a sense of dignity and self-confidence.
For the participation of Kazakhstan women in medium-scale enterprise to be successful, action must be taken on at least two levels. The state, for its part, must organize focused legal, economic and financial assistance to women’s enterprises. This is necessary not to do them any special favors or provide unwarranted advantages for reasons of gender, but to equalize the start-up conditions for business or commercial initiatives by men and women. Simultaneously, there is a need to strengthen the entire range of economic and legal measures through painstaking and sensitive work on the individual level.
At the same time, it is difficult for women’s entrepreneurial activities to gain any kind of social status as long as there is no single program for the development of female entrepreneurship, nor any edict or legislative instrument to address it.
A special status, justified on social, economic and moral-psychological grounds, is something women entrepreneurs acquire, in our view, only within the framework of a popular movement, which today is winning recognition in our country. In fact, by becoming involved in business by necessity or by choice, women are above all protecting their own interests as full-fledged citizens of their society. Thus, the prospects for expanding women’s role in business are, first of all, to be found in the context of the women’s movement, and second, in state and legal support for women entrepreneurs.
The present economic situation is conducive to a number of immediate decisions, backed by the requisite resources. This will make it possible in the next few years to bring about the rapid growth of small and medium-scale businesses, which is especially important right now.A particularly important part of our Convention is the section on ensuring equal rights and equal treatment in the labor market. The section on the basic concept provides for the elaboration of republic and regional programs of development of small and family businesses, economic incentives in the form of temporary tax exemptions, favorable credit conditions, a strengthening of the system of vocational training, ongoing gender-based analysis of legal norms, state support for research projects in the area of gender studies, the implementation of ongoing monitoring of the situation of women in the labor market, the establishment of criteria for assessment of the impact of environmental factors and working conditions on women’s health, and the establishment of conditions to provide employment for women. Such targeted work will help create international instruments to improve the situation of women.