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Fact Check

Are there more civil servants in Bulgaria compared to the Netherlands and the USA?

A post shared over 1,400 times on Facebook claims that Bulgaria has the highest ratio of civil servants-to-population compared to the US and the Netherlands.

"USA: 312 million population, 800,000 government employees;

NETHERLANDS: 16 million population, 20 000 civil servants;

BULGARIA: 7 million population, 440 000 civil servants.

Our civil servants in a relative order are 45 TIMES MORE than the American and 51 TIMES MORE than the Dutch civil servants", states the post (see screenshot below).

The alleged news: There are 440,000 the civil servants in Bulgaria with a population of 7 million, a ratio which is far higher than in that of the USA and the Netherlands.

The Facebook post is from April 2023, but a similar post can be found on the social network, posted in December 2020. Comparing the two publications, one might come to the erroneous assumption that the populations of the US and the Netherlands have declined in the last two years.

Comparing the two publications, one might come to the erroneous assumption that the populations of the US and the Netherlands have declined in the last two years.

According to official figures, on 1 April 2020 the US population was close to 331.5 million and on 1 January 2023 it was already over 334.2 million.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' official website shows that as of May 2022, the total number of federal and local government employees, including public schools and the Postal Service, was 21,370,430.

In 2021, the NGO website usafacts.org gives a fairly close figure - 23.7 million. Assuming an average U.S. population of 332 million, with 21 million government employees, that's 1/15th or nearly 6.33 percent.

Official statistics in the Netherlands indicate that the number of public administration and security employees in the first quarter of 2022 is 326,000.

The cbs.nl population counter shows that the Kingdom's population is just over 17,864,000. This means that the share of civil servants in the country is about 1/55 or about 1.82%.

As for civil servants in Bulgaria, a reference from March 8 this year by the National Statistical Institute shows that as of December 2022 they are 98,343 people. However, this number does not include employees of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence.

According to official data, the Ministry of Interior employs about 48 000 people as of 31 December 2022. The report can be viewed in Bulgarian here.

The exact number of personnel in the MoD and the Armed Forces is not officially available, but for the purposes of this review and based on an analysis of Mediapool news agency and the 2010 Defence White Paper, we assume that it is around 40,000.

So there are 186,434 government employees in a population of 6,519,789, according to the latest census data. Thus, the civil servants in Bulgaria are 1/35 or 2.86%.

Verdict: The claim that the number of civil servants in Bulgaria is 440,000 is FALSE. 

The comparison of civil servant-population ratios between Bulgaria and the USA is also incorrect. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, the ratio is about 1% higher in Bulgaria, but not "51 times" as claimed.

This article was prepared under the "Pilot radio fact-checks for a more reliable media environment" (#factcheckEI_BNR) project, implemented by the European Institute Foundation and the Bulgarian National Radio with the financial support of the European Media and Information fund (EMIF). The content supported by EMIF is the sole responsibility of the author and may not reflect the views of EMIF or its partners, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute.

The BNR fact-checking team is committed to verifying claims that may mislead listeners and readers on important topics. Alerts can be emailed to reporter@bnr.bg Other material from the BNR Fact Check Team can be read (in Bulgarian) at https://bnr.bg/factcheck 

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