Women business owners account for 45% of all business owners in Kazakhstan

At the Government session chaired by Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov on the eve of the International Women's Day the issues of gender equality, employment and health of women were considered. The ministers of National Economy Alibek Kuantyrov, Labor and Social Protection of Population Tamara Duisenova, Healthcare Azhar Giniyat, Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Askhat Orazbek, Chairman of the Board of JSC "Entrepreneurship Development Fund "Damu" Gauhar Buribayeva made reports on the given topic.

According to Minister of National Economy Alibek Kuantyrov, Kazakhstan has made significant progress in shaping an equal rights and opportunities society. The legal and institutional framework for ensuring gender equality has been formed in the republic. At the legislative level, the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of equality between men and women are provided for.

"Great attention is paid to creating conditions in our country for women's participation in the life of the country to increase, for a modern Kazakhstani woman to be able to make a successful career, to actively participate in state and public administration. In 2015, Kazakhstan committed itself to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in which 12 of the 17 goals are gender-sensitive. 262 national SDG indicators have been approved," Kuantyrov informed. 

In the 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Progress Index, Kazakhstan has improved its position by 12 points, rising from 77th to 65th place from 2019, with a score of 71.1 out of a possible 100 points.

Goal 5 - "Ensure gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls" aims to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity. This goal contains 9 objectives and 16 indicators, of which 11 are to be monitored. For example, according to the indicators, the proportion of seats held by women in local authorities is 30.6%; the proportion of women heads of peasant or farm households is 27.2%.

To this end, the minister said, a national adaptation and mainstreaming is currently being formed in all strategic directions and objectives of the state.

In 2022, the Global Gender Gap Index ranked Kazakhstan 65th out of 146 countries in the ranking, thanks to successful reforms in the field of gender development.

"Positive dynamics have been achieved in education, health and economic participation and opportunities. The picture in women's political participation has also improved," Kuantyrov said. 

Kazakhstan is formally a member of the Coalition for Action to End Gender-Based Violence, launched at the Equality Generation Forum in Paris. The Coalition aims to remove the most intractable barriers to equality and is in line with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - "leave no one behind". 

Kazakhstan is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council for 2022-2024, where gender equality and women's empowerment are a priority. Over the past decade, a new generation of women has emerged in the country, characterised by financial and psychological independence, a focus not only on starting a family, but also on building a successful career and on spiritual and creative development. Women's political advancement, corporate growth and development are ensured.

According to statistics, the proportion of women in the civil service increased from 52.7% in 2010 to 55.4% in 2022, of whom 39.2% hold senior positions.

"There are 59 women working in political positions, including ministers, chairpersons of the Agency, the Supreme Audit Chamber and the Constitutional Court, as well as provincial and municipal deputy akims. The proportion of women in SMEs rose from 38.4% in 2011 to 44.6% in 2021. Of the heads of enterprises, 30.8% are women," Kuantyrov said. 

Today, the Government is taking measures to gradually increase the share of women in the management bodies of companies with state participation to 30%. The Ministry is working to include gender targets in the development plans of joint stock companies to gradually increase the proportion of women. These are:

  • in the executive branch;
  • on the board of directors;
  • in the structural units of the organisation.

At the same time, the promotion and support of women's entrepreneurship through financial and non-financial support measures has improved every year. The financial support measures include "interest rate subsidy" and "loan guarantee" instruments, where 6,000 and 4,000 projects, respectively, have been supported.

Non-financial support to SMEs and people with entrepreneurial initiative includes a number of measures. 11,000 services and 19,000 information and analytical support services aimed at improving the professional and sectoral competencies of business entities were provided.

The "Business Links" tool includes thematic business internships abroad, establishing business links with foreign partners. Eleven women entrepreneurs have completed internships in Germany. The activities of the Women's Entrepreneurship Development Centres are aimed at increasing the competitiveness and potential of entrepreneurs. More than 8,000 women have received counselling at the centres, 19 per cent of whom live in rural areas.

At the same time, the Women in Business programme is implemented jointly with the EBRD. The EBRD has provided $108 million in financing, and 48 local consultancy projects and six projects involving international experts have been implemented.

"I would like to note the significant contribution of women in increasing business activity as one of the important factors of sustainable economic growth. The role of women in politics and their significant participation will also contribute to improving gender equality in other spheres of public life," Kuantyrov summed up. 

The Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Tamara Duisenova, spoke about employment and social support for women.

Thus, there are 4.3 million employed women in the country, which accounts for 48% of the total employed population. 35% of women work in trade and services, 32% in education, health care and science, 14% in industry, construction and transport, and over 9% in agriculture.

"As part of regional employment maps, active work was carried out to involve women in productive employment. Thus, 536,000 women were employed, which accounted for 55% of all employed citizens. And in the two months of this year this figure exceeded 92,000," Tamara Duisenova informed.

The minister added that young women were very active in getting jobs subsidised by the state. Last year, about 30,000 girls got their first job.

"Another very important measure of state support is training followed by employment or starting one's own business. Last year, almost 80,000 women took courses in the basics of entrepreneurship. As a result of the training, about 13,000 women received grants. Of these, 58% bought the technological equipment and tools needed to produce goods and services, and 31% went into livestock breeding and bought livestock," the head of the Ministry said.

Tamara Duisenova cited the projects of Gulziya Muratbekkyzy, a mother of many children from Shieli district, Kyzylorda region, who opened a confectionery shop, and Akmanat Jolaushybaeva, a resident of Aktobe Oblast, who started a plaster and rubber goods production business as successful examples of women who have created businesses.

The Minister also noted that last year the "Silver Age" project for people of pre-retirement age was launched and more than 3,000 people were employed, 50% of whom were women. The participants consider the project a success. For example, Tamara Strelnikova from Shemonaikha in the East Kazakhstan region found a job as a nurse, and Tatyana Adamovich from Osakarovka in the Karaganda region became a pastry chef.

This year, the age for participation in the project has been lowered from 58 to 50. Jobs are offered by employers and participants are free to choose based on their qualifications. Wages are subsidised by the state for 3 years.

"In 2023, work to intensify measures to promote women's employment will continue. More than 177 billion tg is allocated for these purposes from the budget alone, including 135 billion tg for subsidised jobs and 42 billion tg for loans and grants," Tamara Duisenova said.

The minister also said that this year 2.1 million families will be covered by measures to support motherhood and childhood, who will receive 1.2 trillion tenge from the state budget and the State Social Insurance Fund.

"More than 258,000 women will receive social benefits from the SFCS for pregnancy and childbirth in this year. Their average amount, which depends on the income of women, by the end of two months was about 900 thousand tenge. On 1 January, the amount of lump-sum benefits for the birth of a child was increased. This year for the birth of the first, second and third child the family receives 131 thousand tenge, and for the fourth child more 217 thousand tenge. In pursuance of the instructions of the Head of State, the period of social benefits for child care has been increased from 1 year to 1.5 years. Taking into account children born last year, about 760,000 families will receive such payments," the head of Ministry informed.

Tamara Duisenova also added that all these services are provided to beneficiaries proactively, i.e. without going to public authorities. To date, the number of state services in the social and labour sphere provided in this format, including the Digital Family Card, has exceeded 1 million.

The head of the Ministry paid special attention to support measures for mothers with many children. Thus, the minimum amount of monthly benefits paid to families with four children is just over 55 thousand tenge, and the maximum for families with eight or more children is over 110 thousand tenge. This year, 544,000 families are scheduled to receive this type of benefit, with a total funding of 410 billion tenge.

Another allowance is provided for mothers who have been awarded the Altyn alkha and Kumis alkha pendants. It is granted for life and is paid monthly. Today 230,000 mothers receive this allowance, for which 61 billion tenge have been allocated from the national budget.

"I would like to point out that all the above social payments are assigned regardless of the family's income. But if the family income per family member is below the poverty line, the state will provide additional targeted social assistance. Last year it was received by 729,000 people, this year it was assigned to 350,000. At that, its average size, including fixed payments, this year is 18,000 tg or 8.7 thousand more than last year," the Minister concluded.

Gauhar Buribayeva, Chairman of the Board of Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund JSC, noted that today women contribute greatly to the prosperity of Kazakhstan, including actively participating in the development of entrepreneurship. Today the state creates comprehensive measures for starting and developing business. 

The Damu Fund supports SMEs in 4 main areas, which are interest rate subsidies, loan guarantees, soft loans and training under EBRD programmes. The Fund is the operator of state programmes such as National Entrepreneurship Development Project 2021-2025, Economy of Simple Things, SME support programmes in the manufacturing sector, as well as provides support to entrepreneurs through its own SME support programmes.

"The growth of women's entrepreneurship around the world has become a global trend. This segment helps strengthen the economy, creates employment opportunities and also makes a significant contribution to social entrepreneurship," Gauhar Buribayeva said. 

In Kazakhstan, there is a fairly high proportion of women among SME owners - 45%. However, among individual entrepreneurs, women represent 54%. The most typical types of business for women are education and real estate operations. In these, the proportion of female executives is 69% and 59%, respectively.

"If we compare with OECD countries, we see good numbers of women SME business owners in Kazakhstan, ahead of countries like the US, Russia and Turkey. In terms of international cooperation, Kazakhstan was elected to the Executive Board of UN Women in November 2020. One year earlier, UN Women headquarters in New York agreed with Damu Foundation to sign the Statement of Support to the "Women's Empowerment Principles". The document was signed by 2,639 companies, including Google, Citigroup Inc, Nasdaq, PwC, Ernst & Young and Coca-Cola. In Kazakhstan, UN Women works in partnership with the Government of Kazakhstan," Gauhar Buribayeva explained.   

State support measures such as:

  • subsidising part of the interest rate, the entrepreneur pays 7 to 8%, depending on the location of the project;
  • guaranteeing loans of up to 85% of the loan amount;
  • concessionary financing;

"A total of 184,700 projects worth 10.5 trillion tenge were supported, of which 85,000 were for women, worth 2.4 trillion tenge. In terms of the number of projects, we can see that women entrepreneurs account for 46% of the total number of projects supported by the Damu Fund," Gauhar Buribayeva said.   

In addition, the socio-economic impact of the participants in the State programmes of the Damu Fund as at 1 January 2022 has resulted in the production of goods worth 2.8 trillion tenge and tax revenues totalling 177.1 billion tenge. 2,858 jobs have been created.

About 167,000 women entrepreneurs are employed in businesses (27 per cent of the total number of employees in State-supported enterprises). The majority of women entrepreneurs supported by the Government through the Damu Fund are employed in trade (52 per cent), agriculture (13 per cent), services (8 per cent) and manufacturing (6 per cent).

By region, women were most active in Turkestan, Zhambyl and Almaty regions. In terms of loan amount, the leaders are Almaty city, Astana city and East Kazakhstan oblast.

As part of an agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan, ADB and the Damu Fund, a programme to finance medium and micro-sized businesses, including women entrepreneurs, has been successfully implemented. Under this programme, more than 20,500 women entrepreneurs were supported for a total loan amount of 95.6 billion tenge.

The Women in Business programme has been successful in developing women-led businesses in Kazakhstan by providing access to finance, know-how and non-financial services in cooperation with the EBRD, supporting some 14,000 women entrepreneurs for a total loan amount of KZT27.1 billion.

"In 2023, the Damu Fund plans to launch a special programme under the working title 'Women in Business' with preferential conditions. This programme will give many Kazakhstani women an opportunity to implement even more projects," Gauhar Buribayeva clarified.   

In addition, cooperation with relevant organisations that contribute to the development of women's entrepreneurial potential has continued. This cooperation will enable the continuation of various training events for aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs and master classes based on the Damu Foundation, including through the network of regional branches.

"As previously stated, women are actively involved in projects in almost all sectors of the economy, and here are a few examples of successful projects. DOLCE, represented by founder Elena Eduardovna Lee, received support in the form of an interest rate subsidy. The company is successfully operating in the production of rubber sanitary and medical products and the production of pharmaceuticals. The next successful project is "ADILI TEXTILE" LLP, the company is engaged in the sphere of fabric and textile goods finishing activities and provides the main product line for "Adili" brand. The company has received state support in the form of interest rate subsidies,” the Chairman of the Board of Development Fund JSC explained.  

In Pavlodar, the company "Gofrotara Plant" LLP received state support to expand its corrugated board production activities. The company headed by Gulnar Shamarova has been producing 3-layer corrugated cardboard used for storage and transportation of food, meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, confectionary products, as well as household appliances and equipment for more than 10 years. Businesswomen are active in all regions of our country. Shymkent-based AGF Group LLP received state support in the form of interest rate subsidies. PK AGF Group LLP is the largest producer of home textiles in Kazakhstan. The company has been working in the sphere of sewing production for more than 7 years.

For her part, Minister of Healthcare Azhar Giniyat informed that more than 10 million women live in Kazakhstan, over 4 million women of childbearing age and more than 3 million girls under 18.

In the country's health care system, measures aimed at prevention and early detection of diseases are a priority. Population screenings are conducted to detect behavioural risk factors and diagnose common diseases such as arterial hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, glaucoma and viral hepatitis B and C; in women, cervical and breast cancer.

"Non-communicable diseases remain the main cause of death for women around the world; the morbidity rate in Kazakhstan increased by 4.2% during the year to more than 50,000 per 100,000 population. Respiratory diseases make up 27% of the morbidity rate among women in Kazakhstan, 12% of the urogenital system, 8% of the circulatory system, and 6% each of the musculoskeletal and connective tissue systems and diseases of the digestive system," Giniyat said. 

Anaemia is one of the most common conditions in women. Out of every 100,000 women, 927 have this condition, despite a 17 per cent decrease in the incidence of the disease. Almost 3 million women, accounting for 62.5 per cent of the total registered adult population (4.8 million persons), have been registered for outpatient treatment. Almost 2 million women have been treated in hospitals, and 500,000 surgical operations have been performed. All told, life expectancy at birth for women is 74.03 years, and women live 7.7 years longer than men (66.33 years).

At the same time, women are sicker and use health services more than men, in particular due to their reproductive health needs.

More than 400,000 births take place in the country each year, 99 per cent of pregnant women were monitored by health workers, and early coverage up to 12 weeks was 90 per cent. There has been a 10 per cent increase in the screening of pregnant women for congenital malformations. The clear routing of hospitalization of pregnant women in accordance with the principles of regionalization of perinatal care, improvement of clinical protocols, telemedical consultations and air ambulance flights last year made it possible to save the lives of more than 1,000 women in an extremely serious condition.  

Last year, as a result of systematic measures and the improved organization of medical care, the rate of MS declined by a factor of 2.6, from 44.7 to 17 per 100,000 live births. Serious somatic illnesses among women account for 46 per cent of the causes of MS and 19 per cent of pneumonia and co-infections.

In Kazakhstan, abortion is still a method of childbirth regulation, with a rate of 17.5 per 100,000 women of childbearing age, the minister said.

"Infertile marriage remains an important medical and social problem, the solution of which will help both to improve the demographic situation in the country and to improve the quality of life of women deprived of the possibility of having children for various reasons. In order to comply with the Head of State's instructions, the Ministry is continuing to implement the special programme "Onsagan sabi", which has resulted in the provision of IVF treatment for 14,000 women. During the programme period, over 6,000 women became pregnant, and 2,800 families gave birth to 3,200 long-awaited children. Approximately 3,000 pregnant women are currently awaiting childbirth. Annual allocation of 7,000 quotas is envisaged under the Healthy Nation National Project," the Minister of Healthcare explained.

The state of reproductive health of adolescent girls in the current context is due to the early onset of sexual activity, disorders of puberty and the associated problems of teenage pregnancies, childbirth and abortions.

"In Kazakhstan, the median value of early sexual debut among adolescents is 16.5 years. The number of births among adolescents has fallen by 14% (from 3,778 to 2,699) and the abortion rate has halved, from 5.8 to 2.7 per 1,000 adolescents over the past five years," the Minister of Healthcare said.

In order to preserve health and ensure favourable conditions for the provision of free qualified medical and psychosocial assistance to adolescents and young people in Kazakhstan, 191 youth health centres have been set up with more than 1,000 specialists, whose services have covered more than 730,000 minors and young people up to the age of 29. Funding in 2022 amounted to 2.1 billion tenge. 

Kazakhstan achieves the Sustainable Development Goals in terms of gender equality - the right to health care is guaranteed to all citizens of our country, and there is no discrimination by sex, age or social status. The Ministry is making efforts to improve women's health by improving the quality and accessibility of all services.

To improve women's health: Preventive check-ups for rural dwellers are reviewed, and screenings for early detection of kidney, gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases are expanded.

According to the head of the ministry, an innovation is the coverage of screenings for persons aged 18 to 29 years who have not previously been screened. There are 9 referrals for consultative and diagnostic services without visits to GPs, a "Green Corridor" has been introduced to speed up examination and treatment of suspected oncological and haematological diseases. A socially oriented model has been introduced in primary health care, where prevention and social and psychological assistance departments have been set up and more than 2,000 social workers and 1,500 psychologists work.

Within the framework of the Istanbul Protocol, new approaches to the examination, examination and recording of injuries, ill-treatment and violence, including against women and children, have been implemented.

In addition, since the beginning of the year, the MoH has taken over the medical care of convicted persons, including women and children. Measures are being taken to improve their medical care.

To improve the health of women and pregnant women: 12 perinatal centres meeting international standards are planned; 655 primary health-care facilities in rural areas have been built; 32 interdistrict hospitals have been modernized; standards of care and clinical protocols are being improved; and road maps are being established for key areas. Efforts are continuing to improve the work of family planning offices, MCH centres and contraceptive coverage for women.

Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Askhat Orazbek, in turn, informed that in order to implement the President's Address to the people of Kazakhstan "People's unity and systemic reforms - a solid foundation for prosperity of the country" the work on revision and conversion of all business processes of state bodies into digital format is carried out.

A re-engineering tool is being introduced to optimise the operations of state agencies and existing business processes and to convert them into an electronic format, which will be implemented at the Digital Transformation Centre site.

"Re-engineering the business processes of administrative bodies will make it possible to achieve effective public administration by applying a human-centred approach and eliminating duplication of data. We, together with the state bodies concerned, considered the life situation of 'Childbirth' in the first stage," emphasised Askhat Orazbek. 

A focus group of 60 women (mothers and mothers-to-be) was established for this purpose. An online survey using the CJM methodology identified common concerns and questions of concern. As a result, the focus group was narrowed down to 15 mothers and a brainstorming session with key stakeholders (line ministers) was organised.

However, 420 questionnaires from mothers were included in the interim analysis.

As a result of the analysis, major problems are identified such as lack of understanding where to go for counselling, how to get registered and receive prenatal payments, etc. For example, according to the rules, the nurse has to visit the newborn baby in the first three days. However, the visiting nurse does not visit everyone, because the outpatient clinic is not informed about the birth. This process is now being sorted out. That is a lot of unclear processes, whereas the mother's main need is to meet basic needs like: getting benefits, registering the baby at the polyclinic, etc.

Askhat Orazbek noted that after the re-engineering, all information about state support measures for pregnant women will be available in a mobile application, and a number of processes, such as granting benefits, filling in sick leave, providing medicines and other means, will be completely transferred into electronic format.

As a result, whereas previously prenatal benefits were awarded in 15 days, it is now proposed to streamline the process to 1 hour. Receipt of benefits from the time of birth will be reduced from 8 days to 3 days with further streamlining to 1 hour. Consideration is being given to the possibility of automatically opening an account for a newborn under the National Fund for Children programme.

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