Free Movement and Affordable Housing : Public Preferences for Reform in Uzbekistan
World Bank 2020.01.15
Uzbekistan has one of the lowest rates of internal migration in the world, leading to persistent economic imbalances. Drawing from a unique monthly panel survey called Listening to the Citizens of Uzbekistan and a survey experiment, this paper focuses on two factors that prevent domestic mobility: (i) restrictive propiska registration policies, and (ii) the exceptionally high cost of urban housing. Registration rules prohibit migration to urban centers, and urban housing costs push up the cost of living to as much as 550 percent of the national average, levels severely unaffordable for almost all rural residents. But the proposed government reforms in 2019 to address these challenges are very popular. The results show that about 90 percent of people support lifting all registration restrictions and over 80 percent favor increasing urban housing construction. The results of the experiment show that reform popularity increases when propiska rules and housing costs are referenced in randomly assigned vignettes. However, views may also be sensitive to perceptions of fairness. Recent high-profile involuntary demolitions coincided with a doubling of the share responding that policies are unfair. The increase was further associated with declining optimism and lower support for the wider government national development program, beyond urbanization issues.