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Since 1995 we have been supporting Kazakhstan 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.

Kazakhstan is aiming to be among the 30 global economies by 2050 and the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy outlines widespread economic, social and political reform to achieve this. A key element of the strategy is comprehensive support for entrepreneurship and a recognition of the importance of knowledge and professional skills. The strategy is being implemented via all sectoral strategies and programmes, including education. The ETF is accompanying these educational development programmes through advice, expertise and input to training actions and Kazakhstan is the first ETF partner country to include the Torino Process as an official monitoring and development tool within its Education Development Programme.

Political context and priorities

Kazakhstan has achieved exceptional economic growth since its independence and in 2015 it was the first Central Asian country to conclude an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU. As well as consistent reform measures in political, economic and social spheres including education, a priority for the government is economic diversification as there is currently heavy reliance on oil and gas as well as mineral commodities. Further goals are to reduce the strong disparities between regions as well as between urban and rural environments and to address internal migration.

Socio-economic situation

Kazakhstan has transitioned from lower-middle-income to upper-middle income status in less than two decades. Since 2002, GDP per capita has risen six-fold and poverty incidence has fallen sharply, showing a significant progress in country performance in the World Bank’s indicator of shared prosperity. Amongst all Central Asian countries Kazakhstan has the lowest relative share of youth population at 23.8% and together with the strong economic performance of the country this explains why youth unemployment is low at 4.1%. The country does however experience a high level of self-employment, including also at subsistence level.

Education and labour policies

Kazakhstan has undertaken important reform steps in the education sector, including the adoption and continuous development of a National Qualification framework with the active participation of employer organisations and an emphasis on work-based learning. The Programme for the Development of Productive Employment and Mass Entrepreneurship (2017-2021) is accessible to young people under the age of 29, the unemployed and the self-employed. It supports a variety of active labour market measures, including initial vocational education and training and the teaching of basic entrepreneurship and micro-credit programmes. Special support programmes for VET and Higher education graduates have also been set up to facilitate a first employment.

EU support and the ETF

Kazakhstan is no longer a recipient of EU bilateral aid but continues to take part in regional actions as part of the EU-Central Asia strategy, including also in the central Asian Education Platform (CAEP). Kazakhstan is an active member of all the thematic working groups set up under CEAP which cover National Qualification Frameworks, Quality Assurance and Evidence-based policy making to strengthen employability.

ETF is actively supporting Kazakhstan’s reform programme with advice, thematic expertise and training inputs. Kazakhstan has been an active partner in the ETF ‘skills connexion’ project which supports the developing of work-based learning approaches.