Kazakhstan increases targeted social assistance for large, low-income families

By Ksenia Bondal

Children enjoy a playground in central Almaty March 17. [Ksenia Bondal]

Children enjoy a playground in central Almaty March 17. [Ksenia Bondal]

ALMATY -- An initiative by the Kazakh government to increase financial assistance for low-income families will help to protect socially vulnerable citizens from a variety of societal problems, including the influence of extremist recruiters.

Kazakhstan plans to allocate 224.3 billion KZT ($595 million) to fund targeted social assistance for low-income large families, said Deputy Finance Minister Natalya Savelyeva.

She made her remarks March 15 in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) at a presentation of government bills meant to amend the government's budget for 2019-2021.

The amount of targeted assistance for a recipient per month "will be increased from 50% to 70% of the minimum subsistence level, or from 14,849 KZT ($40) to 20,789 KZT ($55)," said Savelyeva, adding that the government will expand the programme to more than 800,000 recipients.

Citizens with an income below half of the subsistence minimum, or 14,850 KZT ($40) per month, are eligible for the assistance, according to the Kazakh Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

Other assistance will also be available on top of that aid, with the state paying an allowance for childcare of 14,544 KZT ($38) per month for a child under the age of one, with more for each additional child, if the mother does not work.

Supporting citizens

The increased funding is part of an initiative announced by then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting with Prime Minister Askar Mamin March 6 in Astana (now Nur-Sultan).

"Low income citizens and large families in urgent need of support should receive social assistance from April 1 of this year," said Nazarbayev.

Such support from the state will help improve the living conditions of low-income families, Khadicha Abysheva, director of the Shymkent-based Sana Sezim Legal Centre for Women's Initiatives, told Caravanserai.

"Every child has daily needs, and the state is a position to help with that," she said. "After all, we are talking about our country's future, in which we're now investing this money."

Such social assistance can allow the state to protect its socially vulnerable citizens, as well as help prevent their radicalisation, Asylbek Izbairov, director of the Institute for Geopolitical Studies in Nur-Sultan, told Caravanserai.

"There is a certain economic component in the work of [extremist] recruiters," he said. "In most cases, people who join the extremist groups are, firstly, psychologically unstable, and, secondly, socially unprotected."

Assistance programmes in Central Asia

The approach to social assistance for large families makes Kazakhstan a leader among Central Asian countries in this area, according to official data.

Kyrgyzstan is close behind Kazakhstan.

Families with a monthly income no higher than 900 KGS ($13) per member are paid 810 KGS ($12) monthly, according to Kyrgyzstan's law on state allowances that became effective in January 2018. In addition, the government pays a one-time allowance of 4,000 KGS ($57) at the birth of each child in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan also has a childcare allowance for every child under three years old - 700 KGS ($10) monthly. Families with three or more children 3-16 years old receive 500 KGS ($7) monthly on top of the allowance per child.

In Uzbekistan, mothers receive larger payments at the birth of a child and while raising children than in Kyrgyzstan, but the amounts are still smaller than in Kazakhstan.

Uzbekistan has social assistance for families with three or more children, said Tashkent-based economist Vakhid Umroyev.

Each such family monthly receives 284,000 UZS ($33) from the Uzbek government, he told Caravanserai. Uzbekistan also gives out a lump-sum allowance for the birth of a child, which is double the monthly minimum wage, or 577,172 UZS ($68), he added.

In addition, mothers of newborns receive a monthly childcare allowance for a child under age two -- 406,000 UZS ($50), he said.

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