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Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Summary

Kazakhstan has one of the lowest poverty rates in Central and West Asia. The country gained independence in December 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. The country has a vast amount of natural resources, and one of the problems facing the government is how to use and distribute the resources in the most economically efficient manner. There are many environmental repercussions from the Cold War era in which the Soviet Union was testing nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan. Many people have to receive treatment for illnesses contracted due to proximity to nuclear weapons testing.1 1 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kz.html

Demographics

Nationality
Kazakhstani
Population
17,736,896 (July 2013 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Languages
Religions

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Environment
Family
Education
Poverty
Religion
Clean Water
Economy
Government
Health
Children
Human Rights
Animals

Environment

The degradation of Kazakhstan’s environment began during the Soviet Union era. Between the years of 1949 and 1991, the Soviet government performed around 70% of all its nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, exposing 1 million inhabitants and tens of thousands of miles of land to harmful radiation. Urban pollution is also a major problem due to harmful emissions from uranium-processing mills.1 Another environmental crisis facing the country is the shrinking of the Aral Sea, which has shrunk by nearly 50% since the 1960s.4 The shrinking of the sea and the resulting environmental damage is responsible for a variety of health problems, including respiratory illnesses and parasites.6

Family

Kazakhstan’s government has made family planning services and modern contraception options central priorities of their recent health care system reforms. Regional centers have been constructed so that medical professionals could be trained to work within local communities.1 There is a new law in Kazakhstan that is intended to provide harsher punishments for those accused and convicted of domestic violence. A new program has been created to provide training across the country to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.2

Education

There are currently around 130 universities in Kazakhstan, but the government is looking to cut down the number of universities in order to regulate education more efficiently. The available career training services are considered very good, and workers trained in the professional environment in Kazakhstan are in high demand. The government has added more vocational schools in order to provide more career options for citizens.1 99% of the population is literate.2

Poverty

Kazakhstan has one of the lowest poverty rates in Central and West Asia. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union the country struggled with soaring poverty rates, but has since been able to mitigate the effects of independence and has begun to develop an economy based on tourism and agriculture.1 The unemployment rate in Kazakhstan is at 5% and around 2.7% of the population live below the poverty line.2

Religion

Even though the constitution of Kazakhstan allows religious freedom, the authorities have a reputation for imprisonment of religious leaders by claiming that they are causing one religion to be exalted over others.1 In order for a religion to recognized by the government, it must be registered. 70% of the population is Muslim, 26% Christian, 2.8% Atheist, 0.5% unspecified, and 0.2% other.2

Clean Water

99% of the population has access to clean water. 97% of the population has improved sanitation services.1 Kazakhstan is home to four primary water sources and many rivers. However, the surface water is not evenly distributed across the nation, and central Kazakhstan has access to only 3% of the total water resources. There are also seasonal fluctuations in the water supply that make it difficult to maintain consistent access. Much of the economy is based on agriculture, which further uses the water resources.2 Uranium mining leads to increased levels of cadmium and arsenic levels in drinking water sources, which will continue to contaminate the water for years even after the uranium mining stops.3

Economy

In the past two decades, the economy of Kazakhstan has made remarkable improvements in regulatory efficiency and market freedom.1 Kazakhstan also has extensive fossil fuel reserves and a rich store of minerals and metals for export.. Additionally, the country has a substantial agricultural industry.2 Kazakhstan experienced 6% economic growth in 2013, and the country’s poverty rate decreased from 5.5% to 3.8% in 2012.3 The unemployment rate in Kazakhstan is at 5.3% and around 5.3% of the population live below the poverty line.4

Government

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a presidential republic. The president is the chief of state, and the head of government is the prime minister. Kazakhstan has enjoyed stable working trade relationships with all of its neighbors and it is a member of the UN and NATO. There are six major political parties.1 Transparency International ranks the country 122nd out of 180 countries for their control of corruption and the public gives their own government a low score of 31 out of 100 for general government transparency.2

Health

One of the primary health concerns for Kazakhstan is alcohol abuse. In fact, the country has the highest rate of alcohol abuse in Central Asia. Each individual of drinking age in Kazakhstan consumes around 10-12 liters of spirits each year and at least 17% of the population abuses alcohol on a regular basis. The government has tried to curb over-consumption by increasing the tax on alcohol.1 The maternal mortality rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births while the infant mortality rate is 19 deaths per 1,000 live births. The government spends 4.4% of GDP on healthcare.2

Children

In Kazakhstan the number of children living without parental care is rising, due to the growing rates of poverty, illness, and substance abuse. These parentless children often end up living in institutions. Additionally, increased urbanization has pushed more children out onto the streets or forced children into child labor. Approximately 2% of the country’s children ages five to 14 are employed.1 Child marriages are not very common, but 7% of girls are married by the time they are 18. This is often due to social or economic pressures.2

Human Rights

In 2017, Kazakhstan’s government committed several serious human rights abuses. Workers’ rights were not respected, torture and impunity were reported, and freedom of association and expression were limited. Amnesty International reports trade unions being denied rights and experiencing closures. There were 700 allegations of torture in 2016. Human rights activists are often arbitrarily detained for speaking out against the government. In detention centers and prisons, torture is an acceptable way to elicit a confession, despite the government's efforts to eliminate such practices.1 Religious freedom and media freedom are also both under tight restrictions. Workers’ rights are not clearly defined and are often lost in a maze of bureaucracy.2

Animals

The ecoregion in which Kazakhstan is located is comprised of pine forests and bogs. There are over 270 species of bird in this area. Local mammals include the hedgehog, moose, hare, badger, lynx, and ermine. The species have a history of being threatened by the prevalence of poaching and the zoo trade. There is a tension between local populations’ needs and the survival of endangered wildlife. Oftentimes those guilty of poaching are local hunters providing for their families when food is scarce in the winter.1

Kazakhstan

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