Kubat Sydykov, Public Information Assistant in the Kazakhstan World Bank Office, offers this story.
A new road brings many things; access to new places and services, fresh faces, mobility…and jobs. A new road in Akzharma, a remote village in Kazakhstan, isn’t finished yet, but it has already brought enormous changes. Here, the building of the road is nearly as important to locals as the road itself.
From Backhoes to Breakfast
More than 70 percent of Akzharma’s residents are working on the road, doing everything from paving and grading to office work. The project has created jobs for local men and women; and that’s notable. The World Bank’s latest World Development Report concludes that the most competitive economies are those where the opportunity gap between women and men is the narrowest.
Jobs for Women
Maya Asanova manages a local company, Best Services, that supplies workers for the road construction. She says the demand for women workers is high.
"The task of our company is feeding workers and other staff members. On average, we feed up to six hundred people with four meals a day," she says. "Almost all of our employees are women. We have cooks, kitchen porters, and kitchen-maids."
The work is plentiful and local, says Anar Kassymbekova, who lives in Akzharma.
"Before the project, I had no job. Now I am working as a cleaner for the contractor company based in our village. Everything is fine in my family now. Everyone is employed by the project," she says. "Things changed to better. One of my sons got a job as a driver; the other is a security guard. It is great that the work is not far from our home."
Local Workers are More Invested
Nurlybek Kussyrakov, a road construction specialist, says many of the new hires are young, some are recent school graduates. This helps keep young men at home and occupied. And Kussyrakov says one of the advantages of employing local people is that they are invested in the long term quality of the road. They want it to meet international standards and they want it to last.
The road construction near Akzharma, in the Kyzylorda Region, began in 2010. The project has created 16,479 new jobs for citizens of the area. Tursynbay Akhmetov is an adviser at a Kyzylorda-based road construction company. He says the emphasis on young employees is no accident.
"Currently our company employs about 700 people for the road reconstruction. Later the number of workers may increase because the volume of work is increasing. We try to make an accent on young workers. They are the future of our road sector."
The complexities of road building are helping train a new generation of Kazakh engineers. The project is a great teaching tool for national companies who work as subcontractors under the general contractors, many of which are international in scope and expertise.
"Our company tried to compete for the bid within the project but we did not meet certain requirements and could not become a general contractor. Now we are working as a subcontractor with an Italian company to reconstruct 40 kilometers of the road," Tursynbay Akhmetov says. "Thanks to this cooperation our workers learned how to build an international road. Their knowledge improved, they learned how to work with new appliances and machinery."
Akhmetov says his workers are now ready to compete for international bids. "The quality of our work is not lower than that of Italian or Turkish companies," he says.
The Gifts of a Road
Finding decent work is a way to climb out of poverty. Jobs are at the heart of a country's growth, and a path to security and stability for families.
The World Bank is helping build a one thousand kilometer section of the road. The new road will bring access to markets, better business opportunities, and essential public services like healthcare and education. But it has already changed the face of the region.
The project was launched in 2009, a period of financial crisis. Now it is giving a major boost to Kazakhstan’s economy. Experts say by the end of 2013 the project will create about 35,000 new jobs, where they are solely needed.