Uzbekistan: Third of workforce 'in jobs abroad'

Islam Karimov with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in April 2013
Image caption Karimov, left, reckons Uzbeks who work in Moscow disgrace the nation

More than a third of Uzbekistan's workforce has left to find employment abroad, it's claimed.

Figures attributed to independent economists put the number of migrant workers at four million, from a total of 11.6 million, days after the president described Uzbeks cleaning streets in Moscow as "lazy". Such migrants "disgrace all of us by wanting to make a lot of money faster there", Islam Karimov had told a gathering of farmers and public figures.

"I call 'lazy' those who go to Moscow and sweep its streets and squares. One feels disgusted with the fact that Uzbeks have to travel there for a piece of bread. Nobody is starving to death in Uzbekistan," he said in the speech broadcast on state-owned Television First Channel.

However, the website which published the migrant worker statistics says they are among the main contributors to the state budget. Independent site - often critical of the Tashkent government and blocked in the Central Asian country - reckons they transferred about £3.9bn to their homeland from Russia alone.