Bulgaria: Recent Developments in Work Organisation in the EU 27 Member States and Norway

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 24 Listopad 2011


Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The issues of work organisation are not well studied in the country. Apart from some ad-hoc studies, the main sources of information dealing with work organisation at national level are the National Statistical Institute data. In Bulgaria, organisations are divided between those with old taylorist and simple structures, still representing an important share, and the more modern lean-production and learning organisations. Organisation of work is not among the current priorities of social partners namely due to the financial and economic crisis. During the last years, however, some legislative changes aiming at more flexible work organisation and working time were introduced as an outcome of the national level social dialogue. The objective of these changes was to improve both enterprise’s competitiveness and workers’ working conditions.

Block 1: Existing main sources of information dealing with the issue of work organisation at national level and its relation with working conditions, innovation and productivity

  • Are there national statistical sources (censuses, special surveys, other surveys, etc) that analyse the issue of work organisation or are used for analysing the issue of work organisation in your country? If so, identify them and explain the way work organisation types are defined and asked in these surveys.

  • Are there any other main sources of information published after mid-2000s that may provide valuable information on the issue (i.e. ad-hoc studies, sectoral studies, administrative reports, articles, published case studies, etc). If so, identify them.

  • Have there been any innovations introduced/expected in the existing national statistical sources intended to take into account the issue of work organisation in your country?

The main source about the work organisation development in Bulgaria is the National Statistical Institute (NSI). NSI is doing regular observation of the labour market and employment (covering information on elements such as the employment status, type of labour contract, average duration of working time, participation in education and training, using of information and communication technologies). Data is collected in the framework of Labour Force Survey and other statistical surveys. Data about other characteristics of work organisation such as intensity, monotonous and repeating operations at work, job rotation, presence of team work, presence of autonomy at work, etc. is available only by ad-hoc statistical observations or surveys in some years (e.g. for continuous vocational training for the year 2005). The National Social Security Institute (NSSI) provides regular statistical information on the labour accidents and occupational diseases.

Some scientific publications, reports prepared for international organisations or in the framework of international projects also provide useful information about the work organisation in Bulgaria. The final report ‘Changes in work in transformation economies - The case of the new Member States’ of the WORKS project ‘Work organisation and restructuring in the knowledge society 2005-2009’, carried out under the VI Research Programme in 17 European countries, compares observed trends in Bulgaria and in Hungary. The recent National report on decent work prepared for ILO in 2008 analyses the trends in working and employment conditions including working time and work organisation, work intensity, safety and health, access to training, work-life balance, etc. Some national reports and CARs, related to the work organisation and working conditions, e.g. ‘Current trends in life-long learning’, ‘National working conditions survey’, ‘Place of work and working conditions’, ‘Work-life balance in Bulgaria’, etc. are available at the Eurofound website.

In May 2010, the Balkan Institute for Labour and Social Policy (BILSP) in partnership with the “Science and Research Centre” of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, the German B.A.D Gesundheitsvorsorge und Sicherheitstechnik GmbH, and the Bulgarian General Labour Inspectorate (GLI), started the field work of the ‘National working conditions survey’ in Bulgaria. The survey is a part of a strategic project of GLI named ‘Prevention and safety at work’ financed under Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2007-2013. The survey intends to study the working conditions in 21 economic sectors according to the National Classification of Economic Activities - 2008 and the results will be summarized at sector level. The working conditions topics explored are: the occupational safety and health, injuries, occupational diseases, health and safety risk assessment, analysis of risks and the extent of its elimination, management systems on health and safety at work, working time distribution, work organisation and wages, social dialogue, access to training and information as well as health services, work-life balance, discrimination, workers' rights, enforcement of labour laws, collective bargaining, etc.

Currently the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) is working on a collaborative project `Health, Safety and Environment in the Work place` (together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) and the General Labour Inspectorate Executive Agency (GLI), promoted by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The project aims to improve the working conditions in six pilot branches - transport, metallurgy, healthcare, energy, construction and Sea and costal water transport through strengthening and building capacity of the Working Conditions Committees in the enterprises and organisations. The project will contribute to the implementation of the Law on health and safety at work in Bulgaria.

A new European research project WALQING was started to examine the quality of work in the new and growing jobs in a number of EU countries, including Bulgaria. Case studies in Bulgaria are in companies belonging to the construction and sewage sectors.

Block 2: Identify existing patterns of work organisation at national level and recent evolution in time

  • Describe existing patterns of work organisation at national aggregated level (according to existing used national definitions) and their associated characteristics per pattern, based on the existing information. Provide information on the (quantitative and qualitative) importance of the different forms of these work organisations in the national context. In order to reflect the workplace practices, NCs are also requested to provide information on different work organisation-related-items, based on the national Working Conditions surveys that stress the main changes that have taken place in the last 5-7 years (i.e. higher/lower presence of team work; higher/lower presence of autonomy at work; higher/lower presence of job rotation; higher/lower assistance from colleagues or hierarchy; higher/lower task complexity; higher/lower degree of learning, higher/lower problem solving capacity, etc), stressing existing differences by sectors and enterprise sizes, and identifying the main reasons behind these changes.

  • Identify (if possible), the recent evolution in time of work organisation patterns in your country (last 5-7 years). Pay special attention to the effects derived from the current economic crisis.

  • Identify existing differences in work organisation patterns accordingly to sector and company size considerations, as well as (if possible) recent changes in these patterns.

  • Identify work organisation patterns associated with high performance working environments/enterprises.

  • Identify the main drivers for change or barriers to change underpinning these recent developments in work organisation in the country, paying special attention to the effects derived from the current economic crisis.

  • Partners are requested to identify one/the most dynamic national economic sector in terms of work organisation changes and for whom information is available. For this selected economic sector, NCs are requested to provide information on existing predominant work organisation patterns in this sector, as well as recent trends and changes in the last 5-7 years and reasons behind these changes. Also, and in the case the selected economic sector is a non-tertiary one, NCs are requested to provide some general information on recent trends and changes in work organisation patterns in the last 5-7 years and reasons behind these changes in any tertiary sector selected by each NC (i.e. consultancy services, HORECA, consultancy services, call centres, etc).

The Bulgarian economy is undergoing enormous changes during the recent years. The bulk of the privatisation (end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000), the post privatisation restructuring, the massive foreign direct inflows and the inclusion of local companies in global value chains during the 2000s were among the factors that influenced work organisation in Bulgaria.

However the multinational companies (MNCs), as the surveys of the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (Институт за социални и синдикални изследвания, ИССИ) conducted in 1998, 2004 and 2008 show, made the modernisation of work organisation a priority. Nearly 70% of the subsidiaries surveyed have made changes in the work organisation aimed at increasing the work efficiency, improving the quality of production and enhancing labour productivity. Teamwork, involving rotation of tasks, has been introduced, leading to greater flexibility and the development of employees' skills. Some MNCs have implemented schemes for collecting employee suggestions for innovations in quality, productivity, work organisation, management etc., and the development of a segment of high performing companies in Bulgaria shapes only part of the organisations. The other organisational structures are still traditional or Taylorist. According to the Valery and Lorenz (2007) work on the EWCS 2005 data, the Taylorist and the lean production work organisation systems prevail in Bulgaria: about one third of the companies in Bulgaria (32.7%) belong to the Taylorist organisational category, another 19.5% - to the traditional or simple form, 27.2% - to the lean production and only 20.2% - to the discretionary learning organisational class.

For the good understanding of the organisational realities in Bulgaria it is important to take into account also the widely spread informal practices that allow local arrangements in the enterprises, including about working time, etc.

  • An important characteristic of work organization is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) at the workplace. During the last years (2007-2009) dynamic changes concerned mainly the micro (up to 10 employees) and small enterprises (10-49 employees). There was a relative growth of the internet use in the micro enterprises and organizations (9%), and small enterprises (11%). However, the workplaces with computer use are relatively limited, between 15% and 27% depending on the company size – the larger the size, the more likely is a higher use of ICT.

  • Although in terms of accidents at the work place, there is an increase in the first quarter of 2010 in comparison to the number of accidents registered in the 1st quarter of 2009 (including the number of accidents caused death), the overall trend for the period 2006-2009 is one of decreasing the number of labour accidents from 4,096 to 2,956. In that period the total number of fatal accidents dropped from 169 to 91, and those that caused disability decreased from 81 to 15. The total number of working days lost because of labour accidents has decreased by 39%.

Bulgaria is one of the countries with the lowest participation rates in lifelong learning (LLL) and Continuous vocational training (CVT). However the access to the EU funds and the start of the Operational Programme Human Resources Development gives a positive stimulus to training.

It is difficult to identify some very well performing sectors. As already said Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) often lead to introduction of ‘modern’ organisational practices (including teamwork, multiskilling and multitasking, etc.) but in the same sector different organisational arrangements can co-exist. Some of the sectors almost totally dominated by FDI are the banking sector, the breweries and the cement industry. The IT sector in Bulgaria could also be considered a sector with well performing organisation as well as the call centres sector according to the report ‘Employment in Call Centres in Bulgaria’.

The current economic and financial crisis resulted in significant restructuring. As it is analysed in the National Background report of the project ARENAS the most frequent answers to the decreased demand were the downsizing of the companies. However the use of subsidized part-time schemes introduces more flexibility in working time arrangement.

Block 3: Associated effects of identified different forms of work organisation and work organisation-related items on working conditions

  • Identify associated effects of different existing patterns of work organisation and work organisation-related items on working conditions (i.e. training, skills and employability; health, safety and well-being; working time and work-life balance). Particular elements to be analysed may include stress, job satisfaction, work life balance, workloads and learning

  • Identify (possible) changes in working conditions associated to each work organisation pattern in the last 5-7 years, as well as the main reasons underpinning these changes

  • Partners are requested to provide information focused on the existing relationship between predominant work organisation patterns and existing working conditions in the economic sector selected in previous section.

The Bulgarian economy experienced a significant economic growth between 2000 and 2008. The country attracted significant amount of FDI. The introduction of transposed organisational models in the subsidiaries of MNCs or in some local enterprises has had a positive impact on working conditions. The reasons for this fact are multiple: technological change, introduction of strict health and safety measures, increased investments in training, etc. The labour force and skills shortages in the economy in the above-mentioned period create an environment which is conducive to increasing interest in the skill acquisition. Employability of the employees raise but still multitasking and multi-skilling are rare as it is observed for the WORKS project. The MNC subsidiaries have better results in terms of safety and well-being of employees. The corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives additionally favour the situation of employees.

However, these organisational segments coexist with the more traditional or taylorist organisational categories in which training is not a priority and it is almost inexistent, where investments in safety and health at work are minimal, and job satisfaction is low.

Work-live balance in the Bulgarian organisations is shaped by two contradictory trends. On the one hand, new Human Resources strategies in many companies take into account family friendly policies, but on the other the intensification of work is considerable and the employees do not seem able to find a suitable work-life balance (as WORKS project cases suggest).

According to the data available from the NWCS in Bulgaria, in 2005, the two most widespread physical stressors in the workplace are noise and breathing dangerous substances, each of which is reported by 36% of workers. Vibrations come next at 27%.

Painful working positions are reported by 42% of the working population. Most affected are employees in the textile and clothing (25%), transport (21%), manufacturing (18%) and construction (15%). Men are more exposed to painful working postures than women. Gender differences are also evident in terms of moving heavy loads. 44% of men and 19% of women were exposed to this risk factor. That risk is concentrated in manufacturing (23%), construction (19%) and transport (15%).

Working time is insufficient for one out of every five workers to complete the assigned tasks suggesting that the volume or complexity of tasks is rather demanding, although inefficient work organisation may also be a contributing factor.

54% of workers indicate that their work includes monotonous tasks. The monotonous tasks are mainly concentrated in manufacturing, light industry and transport.

In the Bulgarian organisations there is low level of autonomy or job control. 58% of the respondents are not able to choose their methods of work and 54% cannot change the order of their tasks. Greater autonomy regarding order of tasks is found in the health care, construction and transport sectors. Employees on permanent contracts report the lowest levels of autonomy, followed by workers on fixed-term contracts. Self-employed people enjoy high levels of autonomy – 98%. Nearly 70% of workers are not able to change their volume of work and even self-employed people are quite limited in this respect. 41% of respondents report having no control over their work pace.

There seems to be also a very low level of perceived discrimination, intimidation and violence in the workplace (below 1%). Age discrimination and physical violence from individuals external to the workplace such as clients, patients, etc. is about 2%.

About one third of respondents in the NWCS found that their job adversely affects their health and personal safety. 22.5% of employees experience direct and permanent physical or physical stressors. Fatigue is the most common complaint (22% of respondents); followed by backache (15.5%), vision problems (13%) and headaches (10%).

43.5% of the respondents declare to be fairly satisfied with working conditions and 29.3% are completely satisfied.

About 83% of workers feel informed about health risks, availability of protective equipment and disciplinary matters.

63% of employees state their job does not cause problems for family members of friends. Another 31% feel that their job causes some problems and 13% have constant difficulties in reconciling working and non-working life. The main reasons are the long working hours and incompatibility of partners` work schedules, as well as overall fatigue and the need for more rest.

The NWCS 2005 report suggests that there are some positive changes compared to the situation in 2001, namely: decreased levels of overall fatigue from 51% in 2001 to 22% in 2005; decrease in fixed-term contracts from 25% to 10%; increase of the overall satisfaction with working conditions from 64% to 73%.

Block 4: Social partners’ position with regard to the issue of work organisation patterns

  • Attitude/opinion of the social partners in your country on the importance of encouraging changes of work organisation in the national economic context.

  • Main elements identified by social partners and associated with forms of work organisation, which have an impact on the improvement of working conditions and performance.

  • Please distinguish (if possible) different views between trade unions and employers organisations.

  • In some countries, agreements have been signed between social partners or initiatives/programmes have been developed by employers and/or trade unions in order to support changes in work organisation for different reasons (e.g. facing the economic crisis, improvement of productivity/performance and/or working conditions). Please, describe one/two relevant agreements or initiatives with the aim of supporting changes in work organisation.

The work organisation issues were not among the top priorities of the Bulgarian social partners. During long time the creation of jobs and the attraction of investments was the main concern and policy focus in the country. The attention of social partners was attracted by the privatisation process. In the Bulgarian case, privatisation was a long and complex process combining various mechanisms such as direct sales, mass (so-called voucher) privatisation, management and employees buy outs (MEBOs), etc. The bulk of the process took place between 1996 and 2002 – 2003 and all the industry and the main part of services passed to private hands. The post privatisation restructuring gave to the social partners at enterprise level the possibility to negotiate employment preservation. After that, since the beginning of the decade of the 2000 the employment growth and the business friendly environment stimulated the business expansion. However in this context the debates on work organisation were not prominent.

Trade unions were very active in pursuing the working conditions improvement. Social dialogue on working conditions is well developed at all levels and there are social dialogue bodies at all levels – national, sectoral/branch, regional and in the enterprises.

According to the labour legislation amendments from 2006 that transposed the European Union legislation on information and consultation the employer should inform the elected representatives of the employees for information and consultation about the envisaged work organisation changes. Employers are also obliged to inform the members of the Working conditions committees (WCC) about work organisation changes and restructuring that can lead to changes in working conditions. However there is no research to analyse if the legal requirements are realised in practice.

The government and social partners undertook a series of measures to improve the integration of the flexicurity approach into the National Programme for reforms. Among these measures was the establishment of a tripartite taskforce by the MLSP. In March 2009, the group presented a draft document. In May 2009 the social partners adopted the document, entitled the Bulgarian flexicurity pathway 2009–2011 (in Bulgarian).

As already mentioned, the serious organisational changes in the subsidiaries of MNCs in Bulgaria were also subject to social dialogue if trade union organisations exist.

There are some indications that the current financial and economic crisis have adverse effects on the organisations of work and working conditions in Bulgaria – on the one hand, it stimulated enterprises to adopt flexible solutions (many enterprises implemented short-term part-time schemes, partial unemployment, introduction of working time flexibility through working time accounts, etc.), but on the other hand, it led to stress, intensification of work and sometimes reduction of budgets for health and safety improvements.

Recently (in late November 2010) social partners in Bulgaria signed agreements on telework and on work from home. These agreements aimed at the improvement of employment and working conditions of teleworkers and home workers, many of which work in the informal economy under poor working conditions (according to recent CITUB data there are about 300,000 home workers). The provisions agreed will offer additional flexibility to companies and will provide better promotion of the workers rights related to work organisation and working conditions.


The work organisation and working conditions issues are not among the important priorities of researchers and social partners in Bulgaria. The work organisation is not high on the national statistics and research community agenda and it is difficult to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation in the country. The largest part of the existing information about the country is based on international studies or reports commissioned by international organisations. The surveys clearly indicate that the subsidiaries of multinational firms continued to constitute the main focal points of new forms of work organisation. Most of the Bulgarian firms are small and medium sized (about 96%) and they rarely introduce new forms of work organisation due to financial constrains and lack of managerial capacity.


Vassil Kirov, ISTUR

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