In general, work life in Kazakhstan is not dissimilar to that in many Western countries. Employees report working long hours, spending time traveling for their jobs, and having to deal with large amounts of bureaucracy and red tape; but at the same time, many enjoy the work-hard, play-hard culture, and feel that as long as they make friends at work, all’s fair.
In Kazakhstan, there is a well-established industrial manufacturing sector, largely concerned with machine-building (for agriculture and defense, among other things), as well as the extraction and processing of the country’s natural resources. The country’s energy sector is thriving, and economic reform and billions of dollars of foreign investment have sped up growth in recent years; moreover, it is one of the world’s top twenty oil producers, and the world’s biggest producer of uranium.
Nevertheless, agriculture and livestock still play a large part in rural areas, and almost a quarter of the country’s working population is involved in some way, although agriculture only accounted for 4.5% of GDP in the latest statistics.
Since 2001, GDP growth has been among the highest in the world, up to double digits in some years. Per capita GDP reached almost 13,000 USD in 2013 before the country started to feel the effects of the global recession. Still, the government has managed to turn around its deficit, paid off many of its debts, and instituted a new pension reform program.
Oil and petroleum may be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Kazakhstan, and it’s certainly big business and highly appealing to those wishing to further their career in oil (there are even plans to link the country’s Caspian coastline with pipes reaching China, and to the Black Sea).
However, there are also jobs available in other sectors, particularly for those who can teach English, either to adults or children. You’ll normally need a degree to work in a school as a teacher, but if you’re a native speaker, you may find employment without much experience. Some of these language-teaching posts can be quite lucrative. That’s important, because although some essentials like petrol and utilities are cheap in Kazakhstan, many everyday items are expensive, so a decent salary is essential.
Many large international companies — including banks such as Citigroup and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group — also have offices in Kazakhstan, so expatriates can check the recruitment section of their websites for working opportunities in Kazakhstan.
In addition, there are increasing numbers of jobs in the tourism sector, a continuing flow of diplomatic vacancies, and the country’s health service is due for an overhaul, too.
To obtain the right to stay and work in Kazakhstan, you’ll need a work permit, usually organized by your employer, which can involve considerable expense and form-filling. Many companies will employ legal consultants to make sure this is done perfectly. It’s worth being aware that the government limits work permits to a certain number each year and also that the rules are subject to change, so check embassy websites and ask your employer for advice.