TAMPA, FL -- Wellbeing is rebounding in Central Asia's economic powerhouse, Kazakhstan. After two consecutive years of strong economic growth, 31% of Kazakhstanis rate their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving," up from a low of 22% in 2009 amid the global financial crisis. The percentage of Kazakhstanis who are "suffering" has also increased in recent years, suggesting not all are reaping the benefits of their country's prosperity.
Gallup classifies respondents' wellbeing as thriving, struggling, or suffering according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. People are considered thriving if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and expectations for their lives in five years an 8 or higher. People who rate their current or future lives a 4 or lower are classified as suffering. All others are considered "struggling."
Kazakhstan's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates have jumped from a low of 1.2% in 2009 to 7.3% and 7.5% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The increase in GDP rates is likely one reason behind the uptick in thriving since 2009. This level of GDP growth has also positioned the country as the economic leader in Central Asia. Kazakhstanis are more likely to be thriving than their Central Asian neighbors in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. They are also more likely to be thriving than Russians are.
However, Kazakhstan's recent GDP gains have not halted increases in suffering. While thriving is increasing among Kazakhstanis of all ethnicities, the increase in suffering is not distributed as equally. The percentage of ethnic Russians suffering in Kazakhstan has steadily increased, more than doubling from 7% in 2008. Meanwhile, suffering has leveled off and now shows signs of decline among ethnic Kazakhs and non-Russian minority groups since 2010.
Employment does not appear to explain these wellbeing disparities in Kazakhstan, despite Gallup research indicating employment is strongly correlated with wellbeing at the global level. Employment figures for Kazakhstan's Russian minority are in line with the national averages. This group is also no more or less likely to express confidence in the national government or approval of country leadership than other Kazakhstanis. Further, a majority of ethnic Russians (56%) in Kazakhstan respond that their local area is good place for racial or ethnic minorities. This is similar to responses from other ethnic groups.
Respondents' perception of whether their standard of living is changing, however, does differ by ethnic group. More than one-third (34%) of ethnic Russians say they believe their standard of living is improving, compared with 51% of ethnic Kazakhs who say the same.
Kazakhstan's ethnic Russians are also consistently more likely to say they would like to move permanently to another country. Twenty-five percent of ethnic Russians say they would like to move vs. 7% of Kazakh respondents and 18% from all non-Russian minorities. However, ethnic Russians' desire to move has not increased in tandem with suffering. Ethnic Russians who said they would like to move are most likely to name Russia as their preferred destination, suggesting a strong desire to return to the land of their roots that may or may not be related to their current personal economic situation.
Policymakers in Kazakhstan should prioritize addressing the rising number of ethnic Russians who are suffering. At approximately a quarter of the population, ethnic Russians play a significant role in the economic growth and stability of the country. In some cases, Gallup has found that declining life evaluation ratings have preceded political unrest. Recent unrest in the oil-rich western province of Mangistau is evidence that leaders cannot ignore simmering discontent. When wellbeing increases for all Kazakhstanis, the influence of Kazakhstan as a regional leader will also grow.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Jun. 9, 2011-Jul. 1, 2011, in Kazakhstan. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.4 percentage points.
The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.