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Abdulgaffor Rahmonzoda

Interview with Abdulgaffor Rahmonzoda, First Dep Minister, Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population

From Nick Holdsworth - November 23, 2022

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As DARYA – the European Union’s new project in Central Asia – that aims to bring people and ideas together to create new opportunities for young men and women in the region gets underway, the European Training Foundation is talking to key figures involved in education, training, the labour market and economic development to better understand what can best help develop skills, and key 21st century competences including green, digital and entrepreneurial aptitudes.

DARYA – Dialogue and Action for Resourceful Youth in Central Asia – will work with people across the public and private sectors in education and the labour market in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as organisations and peer groups in Europe during the coming five years to support self-sustaining, long-term strategies for skills and labour market development.

Abdulgaffor Rahmonzoda, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population, Tajikistan, sees DARYA as an opportunity to revitalise the country’s drive to further develop and reform its approach to delivering the skills needed by a fast-developing labour market.

Although Tajikistan has various development plans, including a National Strategy 2030, the last time detailed research was undertaken on the labour market was in 2016. Much has changed since then – with the pandemic driving new approaches in the labour market, and technological developments, particularly in the key mining sector introducing new equipment for which workers need re-training.

“We need to understand better what skills are demanded by the labour market now,” Rahmonzoda says. “What sort of qualifications are now needed; what new technologies are being introduced on the Tajik labour market. We need to ensure we are supply people with the right competencies for employers.”

Although Tajikistan is already working closely with its Uzbek neighbours – it has, for example 12 ministry level bilateral agreements, including training agreements between Panjakent, and Samarkand just across the border in Uzbekistan – DARYA will facilitate wider regional cooperation.

“The opening conference [held in Astana, the Kazakh capital] has been particularly useful in enabling us to see how Kazakhstan has developed. In many ways they are ahead of us, particularly in their mobile and online courses. These are examples of good practice we can follow.”

Experience across Central Asia in short courses for adults, the unemployed, and young people not in employment, education or training – who represent 7% (500,000) of the country’s seven million youth (70% of the total population) – will also help boost programmes designed to tackle unemployment.

Official statistics suggest that unemployment has fallen from 6 % in 2016 to 2.2% today, but the figures rely on those registering for benefits. Authorities believe the true figure may be higher, but only fresh labour market research will reveal that.

Experience in validation of prior learning is another area where DARYA’s shared regional approach can benefit Tajikistan, which in common with other countries in Central Asia has large numbers of migrant workers.

“Our migrants tend to be seasonal migrants – most go to work in construction in Russia during the summer months, before returning home,” the deputy minister observes.

“We are setting up validation processes for these workers to be able to take advantage of their skills; we want to use our participation in DARYA to further develop this with a focus on key competences and validation.”

DARYA offers opportunities to learn both from regional peers and international partners from Europe, he adds. “We have seen some interesting examples of experience during the conference – for example how Kazakhstan is developing its qualifications – and believe we shall see more concrete examples as the project progresses.”

Experience from EU countries – such as those in the Baltic states – that share historical developments in education and training in common, can also be of particular use.

Developing short courses aimed at particular groups – young people, marginalised groups, start-up businesses – was also an area in which officials saw potential.

“We are keen, for example, to develop standards in craft production in various regions where tourism is fast developing,” Rahmonzoda adds.

He added: “I believe DARYA will not only help us develop existing projects, but also develop new programmes that we have not been able to realise yet.”

Summing up, he says: “It is time to improve the lives of our people and create paths to receiving the necessary skills to develop our country. DARYA will be of great help in this.”