Being a retired person has meant poverty and negligence for a long time. The average Bulgarian pensioner receives some EUR 170 per month which means inequality, compared even to people from neighboring non-EU member-states.
The retirement age most often starts with the sad news of a very low pension instead of the well-deserved rest. Only best qualified and well-prepared experts may keep their positions after retirement. The others can only opt for low hourly rates in the sphere of production and services.
The forecast of the National Social Security Institute says that the number of retired people will be a bit less than 2.2 mln. persons with expectations to decline. This is due to the gradual increase by two months of the age and length of service necessary for retirement. Thus as of 1 January 2017 men in Bulgaria retire at the age of 64 with 38 years of service and women – at 61 with 35 years of service. As of July 1 their pensions will be increased by 2.4%.
This slight growth hasn’t brought much happiness to retired people. ‘Even in neighboring Macedonia with GDP twofold lower the pensions are bigger,’ says Gancho Popov, chair of a retirement organization in Sofia.
“The minimum pension of EUR 133 that several hundred thousands of Bulgarians have to live on is not enough for food, or medicines, to say nothing on travels. It is not only a living torture, it reflects the cynical attitude of those in charge, as no commission can be taken from the solving of this problem which makes it not interesting. We need pressure; someone has to take those people out in the streets. The trade unions don’t defend retired people and those hungry people don’t have the strength to protest anymore. In the absence of clear rules we need at least some morality shown by those in charge.”
Evgenia Bozhiyanova has been retired for 21 years and still wouldn’t stop looking for a job, in order to avoid being a burden to her children and grandchildren:
“I looked for a job for years after my retirement. People thought that I was outdated, good for nothing. I felt like into a swamp, sinking and that often affected by mind. Nobody thinks he or she might get into the same situation one day – everybody thinks of here and now, paying no attention to the future. Even our education now doesn’t work and back in the days we were trying to study all the time and be more prepared.”
English version: Zhivko Stanchev