Bishkek has a rather interesting economy. The average salary here is $50 a month, and that's for people with advanced university degrees. Obviously, that's not a lot of money. It's hard to live on that kind of salary here or really anywhere.
Many people try to find ways to supplement their income. Babysitting and cleaning for foreigners is a good way, because you can make that $50/month in just a few hours of cleaning or taking care of children. Teaching Russian to foreigners is also popular.
But of course not everyone can work for foreigners. There simply aren't very many in the city. And in any other town in Kyrgyzstan there are almost none. It concerns me that well-educated and hard-working people are not able to make a living wage. More people have advanced degrees in Kyrgyzstan that in the US.
A friend of ours from Naryn, a large town east of here, had an interesting perspective. His father is a government employee and his mother is a teacher. His family buys extra food when they have money to make sure that if a time comes when there isn't money, they will have food. For all the talk that the poor can't afford to prepare, I wonder if the poor can't afford not to prepare.
Our friend also told us that, even though the official population for Bishkek is around 1 million, it is much higher. People here aren't supposed to move to a different area without official permission, but many don't get that permission. He is still counted as living in Naryn. Still, the city doesn't feel like it's bursting. And it helps that Osh is a large city so there isn't quite as much pressure on Bishkek.