Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Issues of external and internal labor migration in post-Soviet Central Asia

The Cotton Industry and Its Effects on the Central Asian Migration Flow

Ghamat Jafar (Azad University, Iran)



In this paper I want to examine the effects in the Social, Economic and Political fields in some of the Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan , Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

  1. Social: Abuse of child labor working in the cotton fields.
  2. Economic: Dependence of the Central Asian economy on the price of cotton.
  3. Political: How cotton has shaped the policies undertaken in the decade of the post-communist transition? There is evidence of the impact of the cotton industry on shaping the state’s ability to initiate and implement the restructuring projects in these countries.

The development of the cotton industry under the soviet rule can be divided into three periods:

  1. Beginning in 1930, when the initial drive towards the expansion of cotton was initiated.
  2. Beginning in 1960, when large scale irrigation projects and the opening of virgin lands in the region grew to an unprecedented scale, and a significant rise in cotton output was achieved.
  3. Beginning in the late 1970s, when a marked decline in both cotton output and investments to the sector occurred.

In these countries schoolchildren are routinely forced to work for up to two months in the cotton fields, a situation which causes many social problems.

On the other hand, with the independence from the Soviet Union, the countries of the region have shown a similar trend: a high share of primary exports and high concentration of exports. Most notably Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have increasingly become cotton dependent countries. Kyrgyzstan depends to a large extent on its gold exports, while Kazahkstan and Turkmenistan depend on oil and gas exports. Thus these countries are dependent on single export commodities, which are usually subject to fluctuations on the world markets. However, over time changes have occurred in the economies of the region. The divergent paths that these countries have undertaken reflect differing impacts of the primary export commodities on the states’ ability to restructure their economies and foster economic development.

All of these subjects evidently show that cotton continues to shape the countries’ policies and efforts to restructure their economies. The restructuring project of the state should reallocate resources and reorient economic activity by altering the sectoral composition of the economy to reduce a country’s vulnerability to the risks associated with dependence on a single export sector. Although these countries have taken measures to diversify their economies, reorientation remains an illusive project. Thus the states’ ability to advance reform and restructure their economies has been affected by their leading sector: cotton.

These countries have taken divergent paths towards restructuring their common leading sector: cotton Even stringent control over the cotton industry and the outcomes of the first decade of transition leave little hope for the states’ ability to restructure their economies .Similar to the oil sector, yet in a number of ways different, cotton as a leading sector for easy money has undermined these states’ capacity to restructure.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-05