Youth in Kazakhstan: changes, challenges & opportunities

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The second brief that I’d like to recommend from the Central Asia Program at George Washington University (click here for the first on migration from the Pamir region of Tajikistan to Russia) summarises the findings of a fascinating conference on youth in Kazakhstan in April 2014.

The full briefing note is available via the Central Asia Program here (hosted on an external website). Part of the Program’s Kazakhstan Initiative Brief series, this note showcases some of the current challenges and opportunities facing young people in Kazakhstan. Contributor Azamat Junisbai offers a definition of ‘youth’ as anyone aged under 28 at the time of his research in 2012. Do your maths and you will see that this includes mainly those born after Kazakhstan became an independent country or who started primary school in 1992 or later, which makes a difference to their starting points and how they view change.

Contributors such as Doug Blum of Providence University in the US and Aibek Aldabergenov of Alash Media Group Holding examine the impact of the outside world on Kazakh youth through their active engagement with it e.g. through study abroad, or through the choices they make about which websites to visit and social media networks to use.

Stefan Kirmse of Humboldt University in Berlin drew on his research not just with young people in southern Kyrgyzstan but more broadly in Central Asia to demonstrate that choices made by young people around the region have more in common with each other than you might think. I have found this tendency to hold true in my analysis of the challenges facing higher education in Kyrgyzstan.

Serik Beysembayev, of the Sociological Centre for Strategy in Almaty also finds similarities in his work, in this instance not between populations but within the Kazakh population, the brief noting that “Preoccupation with socio-economic issues and weak involvement in political life are characteristic features not only of the youth, but of population on the whole.”

Whilst the briefing note itself does not offer concluding remarks, either from the conference or the author who put the note together, you can see even from the brief overview I have offered here – which doesn’t cover all the presentations – that patterns begin to emerge about similarities/differences and about the scope for change which I hope the Program and others will continue to investigate into the future.

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