FAO.org

Home > Gender and Land Rights Database > Country profiles > Countries List > General Introduction
Gender and Land Rights Database

Uzbekistan

In 2014, the population was estimated at 30.7 million, of which 50.3 percent were women (1). Of the total population, 19,589,736 people lived in rural areas (1). The number of women living in rural areas decreased from 64.2 percent in 2007 to 48.8 percent in 2011 (10). Population density in 2014 was 72 persons per square kilometre (1).

In 2014, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$62.6 billion with an average annual growth rate of 8.1 percent (1). The per capita GDP was US$2,037.7 (1). Agriculture is central to the economy: in 2014, agriculture accounted for 18.8 percent of the country’s GDP (1) and employed 34 percent of the economically active population (2). Industry accounted for 33.7 percent of the GDP and services accounted for 47.5 percent (1). The country is among the world’s largest producers of cotton (6), which is the main source of export earnings and accounted for 41 percent of all exports in 1998 (7). Between 2008 and 2012, approximately 70-75 percent of cotton fiber was exported. The rest of cotton fiber was sold in Uzbekistan to the textile industry (3). Other agricultural products include vegetables, fruits, grain and livestock (7).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.661 in 2013, the country ranks 116th out of 187 countries (4). In 2011, 16.0 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line (5). Five percent of the population was undernourished in 2015 (5). Life expectancy at birth in 2013 was estimated at 72 year for women and 67 years for men (6). Literacy rates are generally high: in 2012, 100 percent of men and 99 percent of women were literate (1).

In 2013, women represented 39.62 percent of the country’s labour force (8) and 42.73 percent of the agricultural labour force (9). Of all the economically active women, 23 percent worked in agriculture (1). The majority of rural women engage in the shirkats, or agricultural cooperatives, as family leaseholders, in addition to tending household plots. However, women’s employment in shirkats is mainly seasonal and consists in low-skill manual work, without adequate social security rights (7). In private farms as well, women are employed mostly as temporary workers. Women farmers account for only 4.8 percent of all private farmers (10).

Arable land represents 10.2 percent of the total land area, with an average of 0.15 ha per rural resident (1). The rural population is mainly concentrated on 4.5 million hectares of irrigated arable land in oases and along rivers (7).

Agrarian reform began in 1989 with the aim of increasing food production and farm efficiency (3). The reform process followed two directions: on the one hand, it favoured the process of farm restructuring and, on the other hand, it supported the formation of an independent farming sector with the introduction of lifelong land use rights, inheritance and full ownership of non-land assets. State farms were transformed into collective enterprises or shirkats, and subsequently into joint-stock companies and families were assigned small household parcels. As a consequence, agricultural production and management of land shifted from being under the responsibility of the state to that of rural households. In the late 1990s, land parcels within the collectives were distributed to independent farmers under long-term leaseholds of 10 to 50 years. In 1997, a decree separated independent farms from collective enterprises and granted them independent juridical status, the right to hold their own bank accounts and to enter into commercial transactions in their own right (7). The agricultural sector has thus evolved into a multi-layered mix of farming enterprises: collectives or shirkats, co-operatives, individual household plots and independent farm units with varying degrees of rights to ownership and use (7). However, land remains property of the State (7).

Women have access to land mainly through the household. Land titles are issued in the name of the household head, usually the eldest man (9). The introduction of joint-stock shareholding companies or shirkats has significantly affected women. Farm management has been consolidated by Farmers Associations as a male occupation. Even if female participation in farming activities remained high, more often women are incorporated into the workforce either as casual laborers earning piece-wage rates or unpaid family laborers (11). 

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography