Staunton, September 5 – The massive transfer payments that the million Tajiks, mostly young men, send home have attracted widespread attention because this cash flow has for some years made up 29 percent of their country’s GDP, but the impact of their absence on Tajik society has not, even though it may be even more long-lasting and profound.
A new study by Ksenia Gatskova and her colleagues for Feminist Economics helps fill that gap, answering the question of the article’s title “Can Labor Emigration Affect the Education of Girls? Evidence from Tajikistan” (fergana.agency/articles/110330/).
One in every five Tajik families has at least one member working abroad, a pattern that has had profound consequences on gender roles and especially on the educational attainment of women. Ever fewer girls finish middle school, leading to “the rebirth of traditions real or invented, like early marriage, large families, and more violence in households,” the study says.
Women leave school not only to work but also to take care of other family members, the scholars concluded. And the increasing importance of traditional Islamic values among the Tajiks reinforces these trends because it requires that young women beyond a certain age cannot appear in public except in the company f male relatives, who are often absent.
Curiously, Gatskova et al. say, outmigration has a positive impact on the share f girls studying in the primary grades because there is more money in the households they come from but that the impact of the outmigration of male relatives becomes sharply negative in upper grades, leading many young women to drop out.
“The reduction in the number of girls in schools is worsening the quality of human capital in Tajikistan,” the authors write; and it is “also making the exit of families from the closed circle of poverty more difficult.” Indeed, money earned by Tajiks abroad is “not promoting new economic and social relations but rather maintaining tradition and poverty.”
Gatskova and her colleagues urge Dushanbe to develop special programs to support the families of migrant workers, including improving roads and organizing special bus services so that girls could travel to school without needing too have an adult male present at the same time. They also urge the introduction of scholarships for middle school girls.
Meanwhile there is another disturbing statistic from Kyrgyzstan. While the number of children attending kindergartens has risen by 20 percent over the last four years, the number of young people attending university has fallen by 25 percent, reflecting a massive number of dropouts at the secondary school level (fergana.agency/news/110410/).
Over time, that will push down educational attainment figures and negatively affect the ability of that Central Asian country to escape poverty and build a more modern society.