Ensuring women empowerment in public service is one of the main objectives of Uzbekistan’s reforms

by Sami Burgaz

We continue to post on our website the author’s materials of the employees of the Agency for the development of public service under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The article by Nargiza Mukhtorova directly reveals the content of the fifth sustainable development goal (SDG), aimed at achieving gender equality. At present, the constitutions of many countries stipulate equal rights for men and women, but there are still many states that are not even ready to declare women empowerment. Not to mention the distance between the rights enshrined in the Constitution and the real difficulties women face in pursuing their career aspirations is enormous. The material by Ms. Mukhtorova clearly shows how Uzbekistan is working on this issue.

The initiative of the President of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev, in his address to the Oliy Majlis on the establishment of the Republican Public Council of Women is a logical continuation of the reform’s agenda aimed at increasing the role of women in society, expanding their rights and authority in the field of public administration.

Considering that at present about 50% of the population of Uzbekistan are women, the establishment of such a structure not only complements the Head of State’s policy of actively involving women in all spheres of society but also fully in line with global trends to create equal opportunities for the full realization of women’s potential for sustainable development.

In particular, in recent years our country has consistently implemented a series of measures to provide comprehensive support for women, improve their social conditions and provide them with vocational training and employment.

On the initiative of the President, the procedure for the formation of «Women’s notebooks», a mechanism of a targeted approach to issues of social, legal and psychological support of women included in the list was approved.

To increase girls’ access to higher education by Government Resolution №CMR-402 of 23 June 2020 «On approval of the regulation on the procedure for recommending women to participate in the competition and organization of their admission to higher educational institutions within the admission rates based on additional state grants» from the 2020/2021 academic year 4% of the budget quotas for admission to the universities were introduced.

In 2016, 23,000 (37%) of the 61,000 young people admitted to higher education were women, whereas in 2019 their number increased to 65,000 (41%) of the 138,000 students.

In order to increase women’s representation in Parliament, the legislation provides for a 30% quota for women candidates to the Legislative Chamber. According to the Central Electoral Commission, today about 29% of the members of both chambers of the Oliy Majlis are women. Among the deputies of the lower house of Parliament, there are 48 women, which is 33%, in the Senate – 23 women or 23.7% respectively.

Despite the relatively high proportion of women in Parliament, the number of women in the Uzbek public service remains low.

Currently, more than 95 thousand employees work in the public service system of our country. Of this number, 21% are women, of whom 10% hold leadership positions in government bodies.

The most senior positions among women are held by the Chairperson of the Senate, the Deputy Advisor to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Minister, four deputy ministers, four khokims and two deputy khokims.

According to the data of the State Committee on Statistics for 2019, the overall share of women in management personnel in Uzbekistan is 26.6%. The highest indicator is in the Republic of Karakalpakstan – 33.8%, the lowest in the Jizzakh region – 17%.

Obstacles to women’s career development in Uzbekistan

Women often face difficulties in starting their careers, including housekeeping, social pressure about their gender roles, etc.

In order to study the problems of ensuring gender equality in the public service, the Agency for the Development of public service conducted an online survey, in which 808 respondents took part. Of the survey participants, 74.5% were women, 25.5% were men. The respondents carrying out official activities in the public sector accounted for 84.7%, and in the private sector – 15.3%. All survey participants had the opportunity to indicate up to 3 answer options.

According to the survey results, the majority (52.4%) cited marital status as a reason for women not to work in the public service (e.g. having small children, prohibition of a spouse). More than a third of the respondents (34.3%) noted that they were not satisfied with the working hours and 32.7% indicated gender discrimination in career promotion. At the same time, the options «excessive workload» and «low wages» scored – 22.4% and 19.9%, respectively.

Among the problems of ensuring gender equality in the public service system, about half of the respondents (49.9%) named the division of professions and positions into “male” (technical professions, leadership positions, etc.) and “female” (teachers, doctors, educators, secretaries, assistants, etc.). Along with this, 41.5% of respondents indicated the reason for «public mentality», as well as 25% – «religious beliefs about the unacceptable presence of women among unfamiliar men».

International analysis of the status of women

According to the Women’s Power Index, today among the 193 UN member states, 22 women are at the head of the State / Government.

This rating also presents the level of ministerial positions held by women in Uzbekistan. As of March 29, 2021, this indicator is 3% (180th place). For comparison, in Afghanistan – 6% (169th place), in Kazakhstan – 10% (157th place).

It is also noted that in 13 (mainly European countries) of 193 countries of the world at least 50% of women are represented in the Government.

The index also reflects data on the level of representation of women in the Parliament of Uzbekistan – 29% (62st place). For example, this indicator in Kazakhstan is 24% (89th place). However, in 3 countries (UAE, Cuba, Rwanda) at least 50% of members of Parliament are women.

The United Nations estimates that the «critical mass» of women in decision-making should reach 30% this level of representation of women was also established by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.

Regarding the involvement of women in the social and political activities of the country, data are provided on the number of registered women candidates in the last elections to the lower and upper chambers of Parliament. In Uzbekistan this rate is 41% (15th place), while in neighboring Kazakhstan – 29% (44th place).

Experience of foreign countries in attracting women to public service

Statistics show that in some countries a large proportion of public servants are women. In Germany, for example, in 2019 it was 59%, in the UAE 52%, in South Korea 43%, in France 40%, and in Singapore 35%.

The Act on Equality between Women and Men in Finland introduced a gender quota with a ratio of 40/60 between the genders in government committees, advisory boards and other relevant bodies, as well as in municipal bodies, with the exception of municipal councils (analogue of Kengash of people’s deputies).

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, in keeping with his prelection campaign promise of equal representation of men and women in the Government, appointed a ministerial team of 18 women and men. Women ministers are responsible for the development of international trade, public services, the environment, etc.

Gender quotas and meritocracy

Today, out of 193 UN member states more than 120 countries have introduced gender quotas. In Central Asia, 30% of women of the total number of candidates nominated by political parties have been legislated in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

While the introduction of legislative quotas has contributed to a faster increase in women’s representation, they should be seen as short-term measures to increase women’s participation, as quotas do not guarantee the achievement of de facto parity: a goal that is originally intended.

The representation of women in government bodies and organizations should be considered in a holistic systemic approach to solving the problem. A range of other measures is also needed to guarantee women the conditions for effective and meaningful work.

It is important to consider women not just as members of the opposite gender, but as experts and leaders actively involved in public processes. What matters is that there is a strong political will to do so.

Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan «On measures for fundamental improvement of the personnel policy and system of the public service in the Republic of Uzbekistan» No. PD-5843 of 3 October 2019 provides for the admission of the most deserving and capable persons to the public service on the basis of the principle of meritocracy.

For wider involvement in the public service, including gifted youth and women, the Agency is developing a “Strategy for the Development of Public Service until 2030”.

One of the Strategy’s priorities is to create the necessary conditions in the country for the development and realization of the intellectual, creative and social potential of women, which will make it possible to attract many bright and highly professional women to senior positions in government bodies.

The draft Strategy contains a separate section on gender equality that is fully consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal. This section of the draft Strategy provides, inter alia, for the training and advanced training of women in the public service and for an increase in their share in managerial positions.

The initiative of the President of Uzbekistan to establish the Republican Public Council of Women is undoubtedly important for the comprehensive support and creation of decent living conditions for more than 17 million women living in the country, and the successful participation of highly qualified, initiative and talented women of our country in social and political processes in Uzbekistan will only confirm its relevance.

Nargiza Mukhtorova
Leading Inspector of the Agency for the Development of Public Service under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Asia Today.


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