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Channels of Social Mobility

There was a single, well-defined track for social mobility, which led through the school system and the youth organizations of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. The keys to upward mobility were good academic performance, including command of Russian, and political reliability, as evidenced either by membership in the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League or by recommendations of administrators and party members. The party controlled job assignments and promotions at all but the most basic levels, and its favor was necessary for significant upward mobility.
Advanced study in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe was both a reward for good performance and a qualification for further career advancement. Military service, which until 1988 was three years for almost all young men, did not in itself confer any particular advantage on veterans, although it was possible for soldiers with secondary educations who had performed exceptionally well to be commissioned as officers (see Organization since 1968). It was possible for children of herders in the most remote regions to progress, through examinations and recommendations, to the Mongolian State University and on to further training in the Soviet Union or the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). A 1981 account of an eight-year school in a herding cooperative revealed that half of the sixteen-year-olds completing the course left school to become herders, while the other half went on to two more years of secondary school in the aymag seat, from which they could go to white-collar jobs or to further vocational or general education.

In the late 1980s, the government was discussing a range of economic reforms, including increased use of the contract system as well as relaxed controls on privately owned livestock, on the development of cooperatives, and on individual labor. To the extent that such reforms were implemented, they would open an additional channel for social mobility for those who had not been favored by the monolithic system that had controlled occupational movement and advancement.

Last Update: 2010-12-07