The Conditions of post-Soviet Dispossessed Youth and Work in Almaty, Kazakhstan

TitleThe Conditions of post-Soviet Dispossessed Youth and Work in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsRigi, Jakob
Journal titleCritique of Anthropology

In this article I describe and analyse the conditions of youth in post- Soviet Kazakhstan, their attitudes to work and their economic practices. The article argues that the post-Soviet changes, most importantly neo-liberal reforms and rise of consumerism, have transformed the conditions of youth, their attitudes to work and their patterns of work. First, the neo-liberal reforms and the abolition of the welfare state have dispossessed the majority of youth from the access to welfare, education and work of the Soviet era. This has created a huge social cleavage among already stratified youth. While the sons and daughters of the elite, immersed in conspicuous consumption, have monopolized places in universities and good jobs, the dispossessed youth live in dire poverty. Poverty, insecure family backgrounds, lack of good formal education and lack of necessary contacts marginalize dispossessed youth in the labour market. The economic niche available to them consists of menial jobs in the informal sector. In spite of their poverty, the dispossessed youth have a consumerist mentality. This has created a tension between youth and parents among the dispossessed. While parents ask young people to get more involved in available strategies of survival, the latter, seeing a gloomy future, immerse themselves in the present through sex and drugs. Moreover, in order to survive and have minimum access to the consumerist goods and services, young people get involved in deviant strategies: males get involved in theft, drug dealing and small-scale racketeering and females in prostitution. This subjects them to enormous violence in prisons, streets and places of entertainment. The conditions of the dispossessed youth are characteristic of the post-Soviet changes. While a tiny elite and their foreign partners plunder resources, the dispossessed majority are struck by despair and poverty.