ASTANA – The Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung or FES) and Research Institute Public Opinion presented a publication called “Youth of Central Asia. Kazakhstan” on April 6-7 in Almaty.
“Today’s youth of Kazakhstan is a generation that was born and grew up in a period of serious political, social and economic transformations. These are young people with their worldview, their position and their values. That is why the study of today’s youth, their familiarity with the world, is important,” said Tolganai Umbetaliyeva, head of the FES office in Almaty and one of the authors of the research during its presentation.
The publication was prepared on the basis of sociological research that was conducted in 2014, which covered 1,000 of the country’s young men aged 14 to 29 from all 14 regions of Kazakhstan, as well as the cities of Almaty and Astana. The methodology of the well-known Shell Youth Study was used for the research. It was adapted for the conditions and features of Kazakhstan.
The survey was focused on the main spheres of attention of Kazakh youth, their dreams and plans, values, views, as well questions and issues which they face within the socialisation process. Here are the highlights of the survey that can be downloaded online on the FES website.
- Healthy lifestyle
According to the research, major portions of the youth population are advocating for a healthy lifestyle which was shown in the form of cessation of alcohol drinking and smoking (56 an 61.5 percent respectively). They are choosing low alcohol drinks and hookah over them. They also, however, don’t choose sports as their regular activity. Just more than 59 percent exercise, while 14 percent never do physical activities.
- Free time
Majority chose communication and entertainment as their main free-time activities. Self-education, work and other activities which are aimed at personal development do not take as much time, according to the authors of the research. Passive forms of recreation were chosen more. Most respondents spend around 2-3 hours online daily using social networks and watching movies online, but not for education. Reading books, unfortunately, is not interesting leisure for Kazakh youth. According to the survey, 78.6 percent rarely read or never read books.
- Sexual culture and relations
Sexual culture is being formed in Kazakh society, says survey. There are conflicting assessments in the answers of youth representatives. For example, 36 percent said they use contraceptives on the regular basis, while 30.6 percent use birth control time from time. At the same time most of them said they are against abortions (64.8 percent), adding they need to be forbidden by law. The research says pre-marriage sexual relations are becoming a norm. Slightly more than 43 percent value the girl’s virginity as dignity. Negative attitudes toward sexual minorities is also being observed within the youth. Only 3.4 percent answered positively. And 25.4 percent of female respondents and 19.4 of males do not have any sexual relationships. But at the same time, the sex topic is taboo for many of the respondents; it is the topic that should not be discussed. Nearly half feel discomfort talking about it.
According to Umbetaliyeva, the formation of sexual culture in Kazakhstan is spontaneous, which reflects the strong conservative tendencies in society faced with the realities of modern life and the urban environment.
- Moral values and life benchmarks
Self-esteem is the most important for modern youth, says the survey. It’s the most valued for 61.3 percent and 83.2 percent who put it among the top three. The second most important thing is material well-being and social prestige. They are second most important for 22.1 percent and top three among 37.2 percent. Wealth and honesty follow the previous two. Approximately 18.5 percent marked loyalty as a value, which puts it in seventh place on the rating. Among top qualities, there are responsibility, independence, higher education and marriage. Volunteering is common among the youth. Only 93 out of 1,000 people were volunteering in the last 12 months. The least important thing for the youth is involvement in politics.
- Religion and religious values
According to the research, the religious view of Kazakh youth is complicated. They assess religion positively but claim they don’t comply with many parts of religions. A quarter of the respondents say they have not decided their religion; 29.1 percent say they doubt if there is heaven and hell and 21 percent are not sure about the statement that “the God has created the world.” Mainly most of the respondents call themselves believers, while 19.4 percent say they are non-religious or atheists.
- Family and marriage
The research showed that 75.9 percent of youth think marriage and creation of the family is paramount, while 1.5 percent imagine their lives without a partner and obligations. Among life priorities, being married is more important than getting a high education or making a career. The average age for the creation of family is 22 years for women and 25 for men. On average, Kazakh youth want to have three children.
- The role of older generation and family
A major part of the respondents positively assess their relations with parents (94.6 percent) and siblings (90 percent). About 37 percent said their fathers play an important role in making decisions, while 31.3 percent said their mothers. But at the same time, 86.7 percent think they are not under heavy pressure while making decisions. Approximately 54.4 percent said they make decisions jointly with their parents. Only 10.6 percent said their parents make decisions for them.
Education itself is losing its attractiveness to youth, the survey says. 72.3 percent said they need a diploma mostly for the fact that it increases the chances of getting a job, while 30.5 percent said they need higher education to meet the expectations of their parents. Almost 48 percent would prefer to study abroad and 17.7 percent would like to study in Kazakhstan. The most popular destinations are Russia, the United States, countries of the European Union and South Korea.
- Trust and identity
Young men trust their parents, relatives, friends and neighbours. They do not trust political and religious leaders. About 57.8 percent answered that they would feel negatively about being neighbours with people of non-traditional sexual orientation, 25.7 percent would feel that way about alcoholics and 17.8 percent about drug addicts. Mostly the youth showed high levels of trust to representatives of other ethnic groups. The youth identify themselves through their attachment to youth companies, such as being a person highly evaluating friendship.
- The role of women in Kazakh society
The research shows that 84.8 of the youth think women in Kazakhstan have enough rights. When it comes to family, 36.5 percent think men and women are equal in a relationship. Just more than 32 percent said men are the heads of families, 9.1 percent believe women more and more are leading families. About 19 percent think women are independent. According to the authors, the large part of the youth does not support the idea of polygyny. When it comes to bride kidnapping, the opinions were divided half and half. Most of the people who were pro said that it is just a tradition and usually happens with the agreement of both sides and can save money for the bride’s side.
- Ensuring the rights of the citizens
The research showed that 77.7 percent of respondents are satisfied with the level of democracy in the country. Economical position, level of education, origin (city or village) and age were called among the reasons for discrimination more than gender, religion and language.
- Evaluation of the development of the country
The level of development of the country was assessed as good by 76.4 percent of the respondents, while 8 percent called it excellent. Unemployment, growing poverty and ecological problems were among the main issues for Kazakhstan, as well as corruption. About 56 percent responded that they connect the success of Kazakhstan with the President and 25.9 percent with the government.
A major part of the participated youth connect their future with Kazakhstan (87.5 percent). About 10.5 percent intend to migrate to Russia, countries of the European Union, the U.S., Canada and China, but one third of them plan to come back in 10 years.
- Geopolitical priorities
The Eurasian Economic Union was positively assessed by 90.9 percent of respondents. Young Kazakh men and women call Russia, the European Union, the Kyrgyz Republic, China and Uzbekistan among priority directions. In their opinion, more reserved relations should be with the U.S., NATO, Iran and Afghanistan. Main sources of information about politics and world events are TV (60.5 percent), internet (89.2 percent), family discussions (33.1 percent), talks with friends and relatives (16 percent) and social networks (10 percent).