Executive summary

The OECD Skills Strategy project provides Kazakhstan with an assessment of its skills performance and tailored recommendations. As part of the project, the OECD team organised three main consultations to generate a shared understanding of skills challenges and opportunities among governmental actors and non-governmental stakeholders. During these consultations, the OECD engaged with a range of departments and government agencies and over 150 stakeholders in interactive workshops, group discussions, and bilateral meetings in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, as well as a range of virtual sessions. This process provided invaluable input that shaped the findings and recommendations in this report.

In recent years, Kazakhstan has made progress in strengthening its skills and economic performance. The inclusivity of Kazakhstan’s skills system is strong across all levels of education, for example. Kazakhstan is improving rapidly in the use of skills at work, particularly in the application of digital skills. Its economic output has been steadily increasing, and other areas continue to see progress, such as health and accessibility to services.

However, the skills of youth in Kazakhstan remain substantially below the average across OECD countries. Adults also possess comparatively weak foundational and problem-solving skills, as the culture of adult learning is under-developed. Vulnerable populations face high barriers to the activation of their skills in the labour market, and inadequate skills information systems prevent more effective and targeted policies. Many of these skills challenges are rooted in poor governance arrangements, including weak intragovernmental co-ordination and co-operation and insufficient stakeholder engagement.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic poses a unique challenge to Kazakhstan’s economy and society. Kazakhstan acted quickly to contain the spread of COVID-19 and limit its adverse economic impact, but the virus has brought human suffering and is having a substantial negative effect on Kazakhstan’s current and future growth prospects. Evidence-based skills policies can play a vital role in mitigating the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and supporting the ensuing recovery.

Kazakhstan has already implemented a range of strategies and reforms to address the above-mentioned challenges. The OECD and the Government of Kazakhstan have identified four priority areas to further improve Kazakhstan’s skills performance, which are the focus of this report. The key findings and main recommendations are summarised below.

Skills activation policies play a crucial role in supporting the employment of vulnerable populations and ensuring inclusive growth. In Kazakhstan, activating the skills of those most exposed to the risk of falling into long-term unemployment, particularly youth, older workers and people with disabilities, is a key priority. During economic downturns, such as the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, policies to support activation are particularly important to ensure that individuals working in non-standard jobs, who face a higher risk of economic dislocation, are not left behind.

Main recommendations

  • Adopt and utilise digital communication tools to ensure the continuation of services during and following the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Improve jobseeker profiling tools to enable upfront intervention by allowing caseworkers to set up individual action plans.

  • Scale up expenditure on activation programmes with a proven track record and capacity to secure the achievement of stated objectives.

Across all countries, participation in adult learning has significant benefits for individuals, employers and society as a whole, including higher wages, higher productivity and higher levels of social trust. Throughout the project, the OECD provided support for identifying how to adapt the supply of adult learning to help companies and individuals cope better with the social distancing measures made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the longer term, fostering participation in adult learning of all forms can help Kazakhstan move away from a low-skill equilibrium towards high-productivity and high-skill activities.

Main recommendations

  • Introduce a strong certification and monitoring system to certify the quality of non-formal adult learning opportunities.

  • Develop a shared vision on the importance of adult learning, based on extensive consultations with stakeholders.

  • Review training plans in state-owned enterprises to ensure that they enable all employees to develop a broad set of technical, foundational and soft skills.

An effective skills information system plays a key role in reducing skills shortages and mismatches, by providing information on current and future skills needs and career and learning opportunities. This can be used to inform a broad range of policies, from employment, to education and training, along with policies targeted at the most vulnerable. Timely skills information is particularly important during economic downturns, such as the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is characterised by rapidly changing labour markets.

Main recommendations

  • Adopt an integrated approach by combining qualitative and quantitative methods to achieve robust skills analysis results.

  • Improve the frequency and coverage of quality data on skills and labour markets, by strengthening statistical surveys and expanding administrative data collection.

  • Introduce a consolidated portal to provide all individuals with access to information on skills needs, labour market trends and the availability of study/work opportunities.

Effective governance arrangements are central to supporting skills policies and developing policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other cross-cutting policy challenges. Better co-operation and collaboration arrangements are crucial to ensure that Kazakhstan develops and implements policies that are coherent and mutually reinforcing. Stronger mechanisms to engage stakeholders can enable policy makers to gain information regarding the real-world effects of policies and regulations. Aligned and co-ordinated financing arrangements can also help ensure that Kazakhstan provides adequate resources for skills policies, which are then distributed efficiently and equitably.

Main recommendations

  • Strengthen the remit of the National Council for Development of Social and Labour Sector by specifying a clearly defined mandate and introducing a combination of inter-ministerial working groups and technical bodies.

  • Introduce a technical body to co-ordinate the development of the National Qualifications System.

  • Introduce a training levy to increase the financial contribution of employers to vocational education and training, adult learning and active labour market programmes, following extensive consultations with employers.

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