Turkmenistan Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

Turkmenistan is described by the World Bank as a “higher average income country”. But the state’s large revenues from natural gas and oil have not benefited the entire population. Health care is neglected and there is a shortage of trained healthcare personnel, medical equipment and medicines.

Turkmenistan’s oil and gas wealth is unevenly distributed among the population. A small, usually corrupt elite is favored, while poverty is still widespread especially in the countryside. On average, Turkmen spend almost half their wages on food, according to a UN report.

To facilitate the poor households, earlier electricity, drinking water and some food were heavily subsidized by the state. An economic crisis from 2014 meant that the government was gradually forced to remove the subsidies, which has led to social unrest and also lack of certain food items, such as flour.

turkmenistan population

During the Soviet era (c. 1920–1991), healthcare was free of charge, but now a fee is levied. The standard of health care dropped after independence and public health deteriorated. Life expectancy is relatively low, the lowest among all former Soviet republics. Child mortality is the highest in the former Soviet bloc.

President Nijazov (1990–2006) in 2005 closed hospitals outside the capital Ashgabat (Aşgabat) on the grounds that the medical shortage was crying. The rural hospitals were opened after Nijazov’s death, but are of a low standard.

Few women in politics

Turkmenistan is a transit country for smuggling drugs from east to west. In the country, drug abuse has increased, mainly from heroin and other opium-based drugs. As a result of the drug trade, prostitution and crime have also increased.

Discrimination on the grounds of sex is illegal, but still exists in society. The women are underrepresented in higher positions in business, politics and government.

Turkmen law states that homosexual acts between men are prohibited and can be punishable by two years in prison. Gay acts between women are not included in the law book. Same-sex partnerships cannot be registered with the authorities. Persecution of homosexuals by the authorities has not been established, but conservative values ​​among the population mean that homosexuality is rarely socially accepted.

Family life

In the absence of a reliable system of health care and social security on the part of the community, the family and the clan have remained the most important social protection network of the Turks. In the traditional nomadic society, the Turkmen lived in small groups of people who rarely had contact with each other. Exceptions were made, for example, during wars or holidays. Although the Soviet system brought about major changes in the family structure, many features of the nomadic life survived.

Family cohesion is usually strong and it is not uncommon for more than five children in a nuclear family. In the countryside, it is rather a rule than the exception that the residents of a village have the same lineage (belong to the same clan). Sons usually stay with their parents even after they get married. The youngest son is responsible for the well-being of the parents. The respect for the elderly is great and it is almost never that parents are placed on the elderly. Grandparents are also part of the core family and are considered a source of wisdom and spirituality.

Turkmen often marry in their early twenties. A wedding has a great social significance and is characterized by tradition-heavy rituals. The husband’s family pays a bride price, which has traditionally been a way to redistribute wealth in the nomadic community. Although marriages are often arranged, especially in rural areas, most couples know each other in advance and have given their consent to the marriage. Most seek a partner with the same social status and education as themselves, but it is also important that the couple belong to the same clan.

Turkmenistan is a Muslim country, but women usually do not wear a veil and do not live in strict privacy, although they have traditionally usually stayed at home and taken care of the household. During Soviet atheist propaganda, women took on the responsibility to uphold the Muslim customs and rites, thus protecting their husbands’ careers. Many women also entered the profession during that period.


Infant Mortality: 39 per 1000 births (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 94.5 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 98.7 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 6.3 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 423 (2016)

Proportion of women in parliament: 25 percent (2018)



New gas pipeline to China

A gas pipeline to China is opened for export of natural gas. This reduces Russia’s dominance and control over the supply of Turkmen gas.


A new fleet base is planned

President Berdimuhamedow announces plans to build a naval base in the city of Türkmenbaşy on the Caspian Sea.


China is increasing gas imports

Turkmenistan agrees with China that China will buy more Turkmen gas than the two countries previously agreed.


Explosion stops gas export to Russia

A powerful explosion in a gas pipeline in Turkmenistan leads to a conflict with Russia, as representatives from the two countries blame the accident on each other. As a result, Russia temporarily halt imports of Turkmen gas.