Since 1995 we have been supporting Uzbekistan to develop education and training to boost employability, increase access to opportunity and promote social cohesion. Complementing the work of the EU’s External Action Service, we bring together ministries and social partners to develop scalable projects.
ETF is assisting in the overall reform of training and labour market issues, including supporting the EU’s “Skills Development for Employability in rural Areas of Uzbekistan ACA/2017/039-905”. Coordinated and joint actions aim to build capacity in the institutions and encourage regional cooperation in the reform process.
ETF includes Uzbekistan stakeholders in these regional projects and actions and cooperates closely with other international actors working in professional training in the country, such as the EU Delegation and Programmes, ADB, UNESCO, GIZ, British Council and others.
Political context and priorities
Uzbekistan faces some common Central Asian challenges as well as some specific national ones. Policies for sustainable economic growth and youth employment as well as the development of national identity and institution building are a priority. These are set against complex realities; global energy price falls are affecting the Uzbek economy. There are high levels of self-employment, including so-called ‘unproductive self-employment,’ often subsistence economic activities. The economic crisis in the Russian federation has led to the return of economic migrants and to falling remittances. Rural to urban and regional migration in combination with disparate regional economic development are also key dynamics.
Uzbekistan is the most populated country in Central Asia, with 31.3 million inhabitants in 2015 and a young and growing population. Aspiring to become an industrialised high middle-income country by 2030, it is developing a market-oriented economy to ensure equitable distribution of growth, infrastructure and social services between regions. Since mid-2000 Uzbekistan has enjoyed robust GDP growth (8% in 2015), with favourable trade terms for key export commodities like copper, gold, natural gas, and cotton. In addition, the government’s macro-economic management, and limited exposure to international financial markets, protected it from the economic downturn. The succession of a new President in 2016 has seen the country embark on a wide ranging and outward looking systemic reform of its economy and society, including employment and skills, education and training.
Education and labour policies
Education is a high priority for Uzbekistan. The amount spent on education increased from 8.3% of GDP in 2012 to 8.6% of GDP in 2015. Students in vocational colleges account for around 90% of secondary education. Unemployment is very low and graduates receive a first job guarantee. Until recently, the policy framework for training has been consistent, major changes have tended to focus on implementation challenges rather than new policy directions. As of 2017 major reforms have commenced, including decentralisation and changes in the type and duration of courses. Priorities are attaining international standards and improving content and quality, including teacher professional development and relevance to the needs of the labour market.
EU support and the ETF
EU development assistance concerns rural development between 2014-2020: “Skills Development for Employability in rural Areas of Uzbekistan ACA/2017/039-905”.
The Central Asian Education Initiative is a key pillar of EU cooperation with Central Asia, aiming at modernising education and training and raising its quality. EU supports the initiative through bilateral programmes in Uzbekistan and through support to the Central Asian Education Platform (CAEP) which promotes regional cooperation in Vocational Education and Training and Higher Education. The Ministers for Education and high-level officials from the EU and five Central Asian countries identified the following priorities for regional cooperation in 2015 in Riga:
- The development of qualification frameworks and standards,
- Quality assurance and accreditation, and
- Employability and education and business cooperation.
As an Agency of the EU, we are providing support to this agenda:
- Policy dialogue (Torino Process) methods and practice for inclusive and participatory policy making with Ministries and Institutes also at the municipal and sub-national and sectoral level.
- Supporting EU Projects with thematic expertise upon request.
- Contributing to international cooperation of all donors active in professional training in the country.
- Involving key delegates to ETF and other International events: conferences, seminars, workshops and study visits.