Kazakhstan’s List of “Banned Professions” for Women to be Abolished as of October 23, 2021

On October 12, President Tokayev signed the Law “On Amendments and Additions to Several Legal Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan Regarding Social Protection for Certain Categories of Citizens,” which removes restrictions on employment for women from the Labor Code. This measure to eliminate discrimination against women was part of the Urgent Action Plan in the field of human rights, which was approved on June 11, 2021.

In accordance with the amendments, Kazakhstan’s Labor Code will no longer mention “banned professions.” This means that

  • the list of professions banned for women will be repealed (the corresponding words were deleted from subclause 27 of Article 16; however, this article still lists maximum weights that women can lift and move by hand);

  • the ban on women signing a labor contract and working in professions from which they were previously excluded has been lifted (subclause 4 of clause 2 of Article 26 – ban on women holding “arduous, harmful or dangerous jobs from the list of jobs restricted for women” — was deleted).

In 2019, the government shortened the list of professions banned for women from 287 professions to 219, explaining that the remaining restrictions were left in force out of concern for reproductive health. At the same time, the state acknowledged that women’s wages are not even 70 percent of men’s wages. During the COVID 19 epidemic, women became even more vulnerable, and this discriminatory ban only heightened the salary gap.

As part of the campaign #AllJobs4AllWomen, in 2019 ADC Memorial and a group of Kazakh NGOs submitted a joint report calling for the full repeal of professional bans on women to UN CERD. After reviewing reports, CERD recommended that the Government of Kazakhstan abolish legal restrictions on the right to work and guarantee women access to these jobs. Experts from the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the UN Human Rights Council made similar recommendations to Kazakhstan in 2020.

ADC Memorial extends it congratulations to the women of Kazakhstan and to the human rights initiatives and organizations fighting employment discrimination against women. While we welcome Kazakhstan’s progressive decision, we are also calling for practical steps to help women work in professions previously banned to them: The government must conduct a wide-ranging information campaign to make potential female workers and employers aware that the bans have been lifted, organize training for women, and guarantee employment for them.