Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, the Solidarity Center aims to strengthen union representation to protect workplace safety and health, and works to secure protections for Kyrgyz workers who migrate for jobs.

Kyrgyzstan remains the only Central Asian state that allows many civil society organizations to operate openly, generally respecting their right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. However, the country’s unstable economy has hindered job growth and led to an increase in precarious jobs.

Only 24 percent of the population is employed in the formal economy, and the majority of informal economy workers are primarily female—more than 60 percent—who work in the most precarious jobs. Informal economy workers often are hired through oral agreements and not informed of their legal rights and benefits. When informal workers suffer injuries at the workplace, such cases are rarely investigated and workers are not properly compensated.

The Solidarity Center, in cooperation with a local labor research organization, launched a worker rights hotline to take complaints about labor law violations, including cases reported by migrant workers. The hotline provides free consultations and referrals to workers.

Workplace health and safety standards are ill-enforced even in the formal economy. Kyrgyz unions like the Garment Workers’ and Metallurgy and Mining Workers’ Trade Unions have made substantial efforts to organize and educate workers on occupational safety and health and negotiate safer working conditions.

With few good jobs available, especially for workers in rural areas, Kyrgyzstan’s economy is dependent upon remittances from Kygryz workers who migrate for jobs, predominantly to Russia and Kazakhstan. Remittances make up more than 25 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.

When workers migrate from Kyrgyzstan, they often face discrimination, exploitation and unsafe working conditions. Many are at risk of being trafficked and subjected to forced labor. The Solidarity Center helps organize pre-departure training for migrants preparing to leave Kyrgyzstan to ensure they are aware of their legal rights and the conditions they may encounter, and provides contact information should they encounter problems abroad.