Development of urban agglomerations in Kazakhstan: Astana, Almaty, Shymkent and Aktobe (part 1)

Nowadays more than 50% of the total population of the world lives in cities. The list of cities with million people is expanding each year, more and more people are choosing comfortable life in cities, thus having access to better social services and opportunities for self-realization. Cities accumulate human, information and investment resources, turning into the epicenter of the economic growth. How do the centers of urban agglomerations of Kazakhstan develop? Read in the analytical material of
Astana city16 April , 15:41

According to the forecasts, in the future also 600 cities will generate 60% of global GDP but the center of gravity will shift to the cities of Asia and Africa, especially to the fast-growing cities of China.

In Central Asia, there are also a number of cities with more than one million inhabitants: Tashkent (population 2.4 million), Ashgabat (population over 1 million people), including two cities in Kazakhstan-Almaty (population over 1.8 million people) and Astana (population of more than 1 million people). According to the UN rating on the level of urbanization, Kazakhstan occupies the 140th position (2014), ahead of other Central Asian republics. According to the Committee of Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy, at the beginning of 2018, 57.4% of the population lives in cities. This indicator grew in comparison with the information of 2014 (53.3%).

Researchers G. McGranahan and D. Satterthwaite in “Urbanisation concepts and trends” noted that from the point of view of sustainable development, urbanization provides many opportunities for progress. However, successful urbanization requires the support of local and national governments. Realizing the importance of urbanization, the Head of State in the Address of 2014 "Kazakhstan's Way - 2050: Common goal, common interests, common future" set the task of developing urban agglomerations with the centers in Astana, Almaty, Shymkent and Aktobe, having stressed that they should become the centers of science and the attraction of investments and the population, provide high-quality educational, medical, social and cultural services. Below there is a table of proposed areas of urban agglomerations of 4 cities.

We see that the centers of all 4 agglomerations are the major cities of the region. Let's compare the main demographic indicators of the development of these cities since the announcement of the problem of the need for the development of urban agglomerations. Thus, for all 4 cities, population growth is typical, while high rates are characteristic for Almaty (40-100 thousand annual growth), Astana (20-100 thousand annual growth). In Shymkent, population growth rates fluctuate within the limits of 20-45 thousand, and the lowest rates in Aktobe - 5-17 thousand people.

Fig.1 - population of cities at the beginning of the year

It should be noted here that for Almaty population growth is mostly achieved due to the internal migration, for Astana and Shymkent, along with the internal migration, a high level of natural population growth also plays a role. The increase in the number of Aktobe residents in this vein is largely due to the natural growth. It should also be noted that for Astana and Almaty, the interregional migration is more characteristic, while for Shymkent and Aktobe it is intra-regional (diagram).

According to the information for 2017, the number of economically active population of the cities was: Astana - more than 521 thousand people, Almaty – more than 939 thousand people, Shymkent - more than 375 thousand people, Aktobe - more than 239 thousand people, which is of the total population is 50.5%, 52.1%, 39.4% and 56.9%, respectively. Regarding Shymkent it is worth noting that the city is characterized by a large number of children from 0 to 18 years, which leads to these figures the number of labor force, however, it also indicates a high demographic burden on the working population of the city.

The unemployment rate: Astana - 4.6%, Almaty - 5.3%, Shymkent - 5.2%, Aktobe - 4.8%, with all Kazakhstan level of 4.8%. It should be noted that Almaty and Astana are characterized by high rates of youth unemployment (15-28 years). So, if the national level is 3.9%, in Almaty it reaches 6.7%, and in Astana - 4.5%.

According to the structure of the employed population, most of the residents of Almaty (92.4%), Astana (93.9%) and Aktobe (86.0%) are wage workers, while more than a third of the employed population in Shymkent (34.2 %) are self-employed.

Thus, the population of Kazakhstan's agglomeration cities is growing under the influence of combinations of migration factors (Almaty, Astana) and fertility (Shymkent, Aktobe, Astana). In terms of indicators of the labor market, they vary depending on the city, but it can be noted that in Astana and Almaty, a high level of unemployment is allocated, particularly among young people, which in the future can only worsen.

In general, urbanization is an objective process and a trend of modern world development, having a direct impact on the level of economic, social development of the state. Today in Kazakhstan there is a gradual increase in the number of urban residents, primarily concentrated in Astana, Almaty, Shymkent and Aktobe, in cities designated for the development of agglomerations. At the same time, urbanization, the increase in the number of urban population, the formation of metropolitan cities, actualize the issues of urban planning, arrangement of the urban environment, environmental protection, employment, security and accessibility of services, and much more.


Amina Urpekova

Collage: Nadezhda Linnikova