Workforce scarcity puts Bulgaria in need of hiring foreign shepherds

Photo: BGNES

Bulgaria's economy is on the rise and it should continue this way for at least two more years, according to international analysts. There is, however, a requirement to be met–the current lack of workforce must be overcome. If this shortage did not exist, GDP would have been 2 billion euro more per year, experts add.

Why, after years of alarmingly high unemployment, the exact opposite situation has emerged?

There are a number of reasons behind this and when it comes to measures that could solve the problems, business community and government, have reached encouraging unanimity. First of all, it is worth pointing out the constantly decreasing and aging Bulgarian population. From nearly 9 million people in the 90s, today the number of Bulgarians in this country is close to falling below 7 million. The main reason for the demographic crisis is low birth rate, high mortality and emigration. Ultimately, the population of Bulgaria has been decreasing each year by about 50,000 people, which equals a medium-sized Bulgarian city. Older people beyond working age are over 2 million and they are not involved in creating GDP, which is produced by the other 3 million working Bulgarians. In addition, more than 20,000 people leave the country each year looking to work or study abroad and many of them join the 750,000 Bulgarians who have already settled permanently abroad and who have no intention of returning to their home country for the time being .

The government has developed three main sets of solutions to overcome human capital scarcity and these measures have been approved by businesses. One of the measures is an effort to attractto the labor market 200,000 Bulgarians,who neither study nor seek employment. The second measure concerns ways of attracting Bulgarians living abroad to return to the country. And the last measure aimed atovercoming the crisis is an effort to attract foreign workforce.

Government measures are approved by business, but this didn’tstop skepticism related to their efficiency. Moreover, government measures are of a rather general nature and have a long-term perspective, while businesses need to find solutions to the shortage of labor each day. In a country where the average salary is just over EUR 500 a month, attracting motivated and competent workers is not an easy task, especially against the backdrop of the huge, free and accessible labor market of the European Union, where every Bulgarian could find a job and receive far more than in his homeland. It is clear to everyone that remuneration is the factor that has a decisive role when applying for a job.

There is another thing in Bulgaria that makes the task even more difficult to solve. The shortage of labor is ubiquitous and does not affect just individual business sectors or certain professions and qualification levels. In some regions of the country, the lack of workforce is not so acute, but at national level the scarcity is a fact. Both experts with high professional qualifications and skills, as well as workers without special competencies and education are badly needed. Even the Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders in Bulgaria announced that 1,000 foreign shepherds are needed with monthly salaries of 350 to 700 euros plus bonuses.

Scarcity of human capital on the Bulgarian labor market could not be easily and quickly overcome. On the contrary, the process will be slow because of the fact education in Bulgaria is far from the requirements of business and creates future workers and employees who either have unneeded occupations or are under-qualified and without practical professional skills. Obviously, a combination of all the three problem-solving scenarios of the government will have to be used and other public and social institutions and administrations will also need to be involved in effortsaimed at overcoming the crisis. The idea of ​​drafting an international Sofia Convention on Demographic Crisis has also been presented.

English: Alexander Markov

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