|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The project aims to respond to the needs of Tajikistan. The project will empower the country's unemployed and underemployed youths and adults to take advantage of employment and income opportunities in domestic and international labor markets through provision of quality training. A key feature of the project is the institutionalization of mechanisms for engaging the private sector in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) at the policy and operational levels.
The challenge in reducing poverty remains daunting. The official unemployment figure is low at about 2.2% over the past decade but it masks a high rate of underemployment, particularly in the rural areas with seasonal activities. In addition to the existing stock of largely unskilled labor, some 150,000 youth without employable skills enter the labor force every year. At the same time, a number of jobs in industries remain unfilled due to lack of qualified and skilled applicants. Lack of opportunities, particularly for the unskilled, forces many to seek employment overseas. Annually around 800,000 Tajik workers find work abroad, over 90% in Russia. In 2014, remittances of these workers amounted to $4.2 billion or almost half of GDP making Tajikistan the most remittance-dependent among the developing countries. The role of migrant workers therefore is critical to the economy at this stage of the country's development.
While employment through international migration is very important, the workforce needs of the local industries are a key focus as these ultimately provide a sustainable solution to the perennial problem of underemployment and poverty in the country. A major challenge is how to ensure an adequate supply of trained workers to meet the requirements of both overseas and domestic labor markets. This responsibility falls on the country's education and training system, more specifically the TVET system, which unfortunately does not meet expectations.
Tajikistan's network of TVET providers comprises public institutions including: (i) 63 primary vocational education schools (now called lyceums) and 49 secondary vocational education schools (now called technical colleges) under the Ministry of Education (MOE); and (ii) 30 adult learning centers with 40 branches in the districts under the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MOLSP). The National Adult Training Center (NATC) in Dushanbe serves as the model and as a central resource center.
The lyceums offer 1-2 year courses with an enrollment of 23,857 in 2012. Technical colleges offer 2 to 4 year courses with 40,095 enrolled during the same school year. Both the lyceums and technical colleges also offer short courses (3, 6, 9, and 12 months) and trained 47,000 youths and adults in 2012. The adult learning centers offer only short courses and trained 53,000 in 2012. Women comprise about 30% of the total enrollment. About 30-40% of the students in long courses and majority of trainees in short courses pay for the cost of training which provides the TVET institutions a significant source of revenues to augment their limited budget and increases the sustainability of the system.
The TVET system however faces major constraints including outdated curriculum and learning materials, obsolete and inadequate equipment base, dilapidated school buildings and unmaintained and damaged dormitories, teachers and masters advanced in years with little staff development and succession planning, little or no linkage with industries, absence of modern approaches to school management, and continuing underinvestment in TVET in general. While a large number of graduates are produced each year, they lack modern skills and qualifications relevant to the labor market demands. In the Global Competitiveness Report (World Economic Forum, 2010-11), the 'poor work ethic in the national labor force' and the 'inadequately educated workforce' ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, among the most problematic factors in doing business in Tajikistan, reducing the country's competitiveness and acting as binding constraints to economic growth.
The Government of Tajikistan (the government) has taken certain initiatives to address the dire situation of the TVET sector. In 2012 the government approved the 'State Program to Reform the TVET System, 2013-2020' outlining the different strategies and programs that need to be undertaken in a coherent and coordinated manner to reform and modernize the TVET sector. Its implementation requires political will and continued support from development partners. The project aims to fully support of the government's TVET reform program. With its emphasis on private sector development and reducing the cost of doing business, it is also consistent with ADB''s Tajikistan Country Partnership Strategy, 2010-14.