News / Economy

For Poor Bulgarians, Anywhere Else is a Better Bet

A man looks at a list with job vacancies posted at the entrance of an employment agency in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apr. 10, 2013.
A man looks at a list with job vacancies posted at the entrance of an employment agency in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apr. 10, 2013.
Reuters
The factories of Vratsa that once fed Bulgaria's chemical and metallurgical industries and provided jobs are abandoned now. Crumbling buildings and pitted roads add to the city's gloomy air.
    
For people like Alexander Angelov, 27, work is hard to find and his thoughts are turning to trying his luck abroad, as many Bulgarians have before him.
    
The northwestern city, in the poorest part of the European Union's poorest country, is a microcosm of the challenges facing whoever wins a national election on May 12. Its population has fallen by a fifth to 59,000 since 1989.
    
More than two million people have left Bulgaria since the fall of communism, bringing the population down to 7.3 million.
    
Protesters have taken to the streets to complain about low wages, high bills and deep-seated corruption and to demand more spending to help the economy recover from a deep recession.
    
That pushed Boiko Borisov's center-right government to resign in February. His GERB should still be the largest party after the poll but a hung parliament is likely and could raise questions over economic policy, under which Bulgaria has kept debt low to maintain a currency peg to the euro.
    
Bulgarian Alexander Angelov, 27, looks on as he stands outside his apartment in a block in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apri. 10, 2013.Bulgarian Alexander Angelov, 27, looks on as he stands outside his apartment in a block in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apri. 10, 2013.
x
Bulgarian Alexander Angelov, 27, looks on as he stands outside his apartment in a block in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apri. 10, 2013.
Bulgarian Alexander Angelov, 27, looks on as he stands outside his apartment in a block in the town of Vratsa, some 110km (68 miles) north of Sofia, Apri. 10, 2013.
Angelov, who studied business administration and has worked in construction, car sales and installing solar panels, only finds work for a few days at a time.
    
It is not enough for him, his partner and baby daughter and they need money from his mother in Greece to get by.
    
He and his partner are not eligible for benefits and he worked only 25 days in seven months, bringing in 700 levs ($470). Food and diapers for the baby cost 300 levs a month and the December electricity bill alone was 345 levs.
    
“We will endure a bit more, for the child to grow up a little, to be able to speak, and we will go abroad somewhere,” Angelov said in his living room in a crumbling communist-era block, where worn-out furnishing attests to their struggles.
    
Unemployment of 12 percent is lower than in crisis-hit eurozone states such as Greece and Spain. But such countries are attractive to Bulgarians whose living standards are less than half the EU average.
  
Those who find jobs earn an average monthly wage of 400 euros ($520) - less than the minimum in Spain or Greece - yet 70 percent of students are considering leaving if they get a job offer abroad, according to accounting firm Deloitte.
    
For waitress Mariana Tsvetkova, even moving to Spain, with a jobless rate of more than 25 percent, was a better bet than staying at home.
    
The 48-year-old mother of two left in January and found work washing dishes and cleaning houses in the Spanish city of Malaga.
    
“Things were getting worse and worse in Bulgaria. It's hard to find a job in Sofia, and when you do, it's for peanuts,” Tsvetkova said by telephone from Spain.
    
The economic woes of Bulgaria and other ex-communist countries have also added to anti-immigrant feeling in Western Europe, with Britain's right-leaning press warning of hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians flooding in.
    
Nationalists benefit
 
Bulgaria's 4.9 percent drop in employment in 2012 was the EU's highest. Although official unemployment is in line with the EU average and lower than in Spain, Portugal or Greece, people fall out of official data after a year and industry officials say the real rate is closer to 18 percent.
    
“Even more worrying, the real unemployment among young people under 29 years of age is close to 40 percent,” said Dimitar Brankov, a deputy chairman of Bulgaria's leading business association BIA.
    
Six people leave every hour in search of a better life, said to Bozhidar Tomalevski, the head of the Drugata Bulgaria party, which represents Bulgarians abroad.
    
The finance ministry estimates the proportion of people over 64 will rise from 19 percent to a quarter by 2030, adding ever more strain to a creaking social security system.
    
The nationalist Attack party has been the main beneficiary of discontent and with five percent support, could hold the balance of power in parliament.
    
It has alarmed investors with pledges to nationalize energy distributors, raise taxes for the rich and revoke concessions for gold and water.
    
The interim government is redirecting 20 million levs ($13 million) to create 16,000 temporary jobs but the European Commission says a more concerted effort, including labor and education reform, is needed.
    
That will take too long for Angelov, who plans to join his mother in Greece, where she works caring for an elderly lady and sends back 300 euros a month.
    
“If there is even the slightest chance to find a job in Greece, I will leave right then,” he said.

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.