Kyrgyzstan had a working population in 1999 of 1,854,000 people, but the total number of people within working age (16 to 60) was 2,542,000. An estimated 1,718,000 of these were employed, and 54,000 people were estimated as unemployed in 1999, only 5,400 of whom received unemployment benefits.
The decline in Kyrgyzstan industrial sector has pushed many people out of technical and professional positions. Most of this movement has been in the direction of the service sector. A large proportion has also moved to agricultural employment. While the legal system and social security systems traditionally provide for fewer protections for these sectors, in fact working conditions in Kyrgyzstan's declining industry deteriorated significantly in the post-Soviet years as workers' unions and collective bargaining was unsuccessful in promoting the health and safety of working conditions in such declining industries. The international donor organizations, such as the World Bank and the multilateral development banks, have identified social protection as one of the highest priorities of future assistance to Kyrgyzstan.