Turkmenistan - Poverty and wealth

By most accounts, living standards in Turkmenistan have not dropped as dramatically since 1991 as they have in other former Soviet republics, although conditions are worsening. During the Soviet era, Turkmenistan was considered one of the poorest republics, with roughly 45 percent of the population living below the official poverty line in 1989. The CIA World Factbook reported that, by 1999, 58 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, uneven economic developments have served to create a tiny stratum of the population in Turkmenistan that holds most of the wealth. For the average Turkmenistan citizen, the availability of food and consumer goods has declined while prices have risen. Most people continue to receive their income from state employment. Wages are based upon the old Soviet method, with people working in industry,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Turkmenistan N/A N/A N/A 1,154 486
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Iran 1,611 1,129 1,208 1,056 1,275
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Turkmenistan
Lowest 10% 2.6
Lowest 20% 6.1
Second 20% 10.2
Third 20% 14.7
Fourth 20% 21.5
Highest 20% 47.5
Highest 10% 31.7
Survey year: 1998
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

transportation, and science faring better than individuals employed in health, education, and services. By 1995, real wages had dropped nearly 48 percent since independence. Conditions in rural areas are often much worse than in urban, where unemployment is as high as 60 percent, although this is difficult to determine with any precision. It was estimated in 1997 that households in Turkmenistan spent 63 percent of income on food, which will likely increase as prices continue to rise and real wages decline.

Since independence, Turkmenistan has experienced significant increases in the rural population. This growth is expected to aggravate economic conditions in rural areas. Worsening economic conditions might force many to leave the rural areas to find work in the country's urban centers. Turkmenistan's cities are not able to accommodate rural migrants seeking employment in urban industries, however, thereby keeping wages below subsistence levels.

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