Households in Tajikistan are particularly vulnerable to shocks.  In May 2015, the World Bank launched a “Listening to Tajikistan” (L2T) survey to understand the severity of the shocks on households and monitor their wellbeing over time.

Over 1,400 households from all regions of Tajikistan participate in the survey every month, through phone interviews. The study follows the same households over time, collecting their personal views and details about how their livelihoods change from one month to the next. It focuses on key dimensions of wellbeing – including on remittances, jobs, food security, and services. 

According to the latest analysis of the L2T results, the social and economic wellbeing of the population severely deteriorated following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, and the country remained far from full recovery at the end of 2020.

The number of respondents reporting that no household member was currently working spiked in April and May 2020, and although the labor market quickly regained lost ground thereafter, a second surge in joblessness took hold in November.

The survey notes that open job vacancies posted online remained significantly lower than pre-crisis highs. A similar two-peaked deterioration was reported for worse household financial conditions and rising food insecurity in 2020.  Since the outbreak, between 15 and 20 percent of those reporting a need for medical treatment said they were unable to obtain it.  Government programs to combat the effects of the pandemic have had a positive impact.  Direct COVID-19 messaging campaigns through the Mobile Engage initiative and in-person information from  healthcare providers were associated with more risk reduction behaviors such as mask wearing and less travel.  Since the outbreak, about 14 percent of households reported receiving new financial or in-kind support from government at least once.



Employment sharply deteriorated following the outbreak and despite regaining some lost ground, ended the year lower, according to the survey.  The share of respondents reporting that no member had worked in the preceding week spiked to nearly 40 percent in May 2020.  Although reported work returned to its pre-crisis level by August, joblessness again surged in November, ending the year 8 percentage points above the same period in 2019.  Disruptions in work reportedly became less pervasive over the course of the year: in May, 62 percent of respondents reported a household member with some type of disruption, falling to about 27 percent in December.  However, a rising share who halted work were reported as “unlikely to resume,” rising from 20 percent to 78 percent in December, before falling again to about 47 percent in January 2021.

From a peak in mid-March before the outbreak, the number of open vacancies posted on popular site fell by about 73 percent during the first phase of the crisis.  While online job vacancy posts are largely limited to urban areas and particular sectors in Tajikistan, for these segments they provide a valuable forward looking measure of the health of the labor market.  Following a steep decline at the beginning of the crisis, vacancies recovered and briefly surpassed the pre-crisis peak, before again falling and ending the year about 34 percent lower (nearly the same level in January 2020).  The composition of the decline and subsequent recovery was uneven by sector.  Those occupations more exposed to the impact of crisis – including work in hotels, tourism, restaurants, retail sales, and secretarial activities – were more volatile in 2020, and remained below pre-crisis levels at the end of the year.  Less exposed or complementary occupations – including medicine, construction, general management, banking, and accounting – were less volatile and had fallen by less at the end of 2020.


Migration and remittances 

Temporary job loss among migrants already abroad was very common during the crisis.  The survey notes that the share of migrants reported to be actively working fell from 89 percent in February to 25 percent in April.  Working gradually recovered among those already abroad, converging to 2019 levels by the end of the year.

However, with borders closed due to the pandemic, seasonal migration was abruptly cut short in April 2020, leaving a much smaller cohort of migrants abroad, reducing the remittance income households typically rely on, and as migrants gradually returned the number abroad fell over the rest of year.

On the other hand, interest in migrating abroad for work in the future rose in the latter half of 2020.  After falling to only 2 percent of households in May 2020, interest rose above 14 percent of households by January 2021, significantly higher than the same time in 2019.


Food security

Reports of reduced food consumption spiked twice in 2020 and remained 10 percentage points above 2019 levels at the end of the year.  More than 35 percent of households reported that children in their household ate fewer than 3 full meals in May and June, according to the survey.  Overall food security deteriorated during the peak of the crisis across a range of indicators, with rising shares reporting going hungry, reducing dietary diversity, and worries over obtaining enough food.  Similar increases in vulnerability were seen in reduced ability to pay for utilities, and in coping mechanisms such as selling assets and reduced spending on medical care. Each was negatively associated with income, while very few households reported local shortages of basic goods, suggesting that falling income may be a key driver of deprivation. Less than one percent of respondents reported that items are out-of-stock in January 2021, down substantially from 10 percent in May 2020.