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FEATURE STORY

Skills for Jobs – On the Road to Employability in the Kyrgyz Republic

December 15, 2014


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A new World Bank report looks closely at the links between education, skills, and labor market outcomes in the Kyrgyz Republic, and suggests specific policy goals for the development of job-relevant skills.

Today’s highly interconnected and globalized world economy means that labor markets in many countries have an increasing need for workers with high levels of analytical and interpersonal skills.

This is the case in the Kyrgyz Republic, where ongoing structural changes in the industrial and service sectors are creating a pressing need for so-called “new economy skills.”

The Skills Road: Skills for Employability in the Kyrgyz Republic is a new World Bank report that looks closely at the links between education, skills, and employment outcomes in the country, and suggests specific policy goals for the Kyrgyz government in promoting the development of job-relevant skills.

Using data compiled from a unique household survey – the first large-scale survey conducted in the country – the study goes beyond traditional data and analysis of educational attainment, and includes assessments of cognitive and non-cognitive skills of workers in both the formal and informal sectors, job seekers, and those who are currently inactive.

Skills are highly valued in the labor market – but skills gaps still persist, according to the report. For example, youth with more cognitive and non-cognitive skills are more likely to be employed than inactive or discouraged people. Among the employed, workers with higher cognitive and non-cognitive skills are more likely to use those skills in their daily work, while workers with higher skills – cognitive skills, especially – tend to have higher quality jobs.

Cognitive skills capture the ability to use logical, intuitive, and critical thinking, as well as skills such as problem solving, verbal ability, and numeracy. Non-cognitive skills represent personality traits and socio-emotional skills that are relevant in the labor market, including extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeability, and emotional stability.



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Three quarters of 3 to 5 year old children in the Kyrgyz Republic lack access to pre-schools, raising concerns about the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills at an early age. The report recommends continuing with public policies that seek faster universal access to early childhood development services, thereby helping Kyrgyz children to get off to a strong start in life.

World Bank

The study identified some weaknesses in the way skills are formed. While it is true that skills are developed during different stages in life and a host of actors are involved – families play a central role, for instance – the Kyrgyz education system has a mixed record in skill formation. 

Three quarters of 3 to 5 year old children in the Kyrgyz Republic lack access to pre-schools, raising concerns about the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills at an early age. In addition, despite generally high rates of education completion, about half of the young people entering the labor market with a secondary general education lack the cognitive, non-cognitive, and technical skills needed to secure quality jobs. Furthermore, too many tertiary graduates have skill levels that are comparable to the skill levels of secondary general graduates.

It is generally accepted that workers with higher educational qualifications have higher cognitive and non-cognitive skills, but in the Kyrgyz Republic there is considerable variation in cognitive skill levels across workers with identical educational attainment levels.

Public policy can go a long way to addressing the skills gaps. For instance, policies can target the current workforce by focusing on adult training institutions and on-the-job training by firms. The future workforce can be targeted by policies that focus on families, communities, and the formal education system.The report recommends three overall policy goals which, taken together, can strengthen the quality, relevance, and use of skills over a life-cycle.

Building upon nutrition and pre-school strategies, the first recommendation is to continue with public policies that seek faster universal access to early childhood development services, thereby helping Kyrgyz children to get off to a strong start in life. These efforts should be promoted as an integral part of a strategy to build strong skills for the future.

The second recommendation is to shift the policy emphasis from providing access to educational institutions to ensuring that all students learn and build job-relevant skills that employers seek. This could be achieved by building on public policies – such as the Education Development Strategy – that aim to build strong non-cognitive skills alongside cognitive skills at all education levels in the Kyrgyz Republic. At the same time, it is important to emphasize the systematic measurement of skills alongside education and labor market outcomes, and to encourage more students to invest in technical/science training at both the secondary and tertiary level.

Finally, entrepreneurship and innovation can be encouraged with an emphasis on policies that enable firms to enhance skills use and skills investments; and migrants skills can be improved to increase their earning capacity and therefore, their ability to support their families at home.

Download the full report (PDF)


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