Living and working in Bulgaria

04 August 2021

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States, which included the UK prior to its withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context are the EU’s policy priorities for a European Green Deal, a digital future, an economy that works for people, promoting and strengthening European democracy. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU leaders have also agreed on a recovery plan that will lead the way out of the crisis and lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU’s long-term budget, coupled with NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost the recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe. 

The European Semester provides a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU. It allows Member States to discuss their economic and budget plans and monitor progress at specific times throughout the year. For 2021, the European Semester will be temporarily adapted to coordinate it with the Recovery and Resilience Facility to address the impact of the crisis caused by the pandemic. As part of this, Member States are encouraged to submit national reform programmes and recovery and resilience plans in a single integrated document. These plans will provide an overview of the reforms and investments that Member States will undertake in line with the objectives of the Facility.

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Bulgaria: 92% of people consider themselves doing useful work

Living and working in Bulgaria and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Three rounds of the survey have been carried out to date: in April 2020 when most Member States were in lockdown, in July 2020 when society and economies were slowly reopening, and in March 2021 as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown and vaccine rollout. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, democracy and trust, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, the quality of public services, support measures and vaccinations during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are now available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in Bulgaria.

 

The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to Bulgaria:

Research carried out prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Bulgaria

Correspondents in Bulgaria

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR) and Balkan Institute for Labour and Social Policy (BILSP)

Eurofound Management Board members from Bulgaria

Eurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. Read more

Teodora Todorova Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

Dimiter Brankov Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA)

Ivan Kokalov Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Living in Bulgaria

Quality of life

Quality of life

Both life satisfaction and happiness have increased in Bulgaria in 2016. Life satisfaction improved from 4.5 in 2003 to 5.6 in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 10), and happiness increased from 5.9 to 6.4. Even though these two measures are still below the EU28 averages (7.1 and 7.4), it seems like Bulgaria is advancing towards the EU28 average. Additionally, 66% of the respondents in Bulgaria were optimistic about their children’s or grandchildren’s future in 2016, higher than the EU28 average of 57%, signalling expectations of a better future.

In 2016, 10% of respondents in Bulgaria took part in sports or other physical exercises weekly, this being the lowest share among the EU28 countries (the respective EU average is 42%). Regardless, self-reported health has improved in Bulgaria, from 17% of respondents reporting their health as ‘very good’ in 2007 to 30% in 2016, which is even higher than the EU average of 24%. The Mental Well-being Index has also improved, from 57 points in 2007 to 66 points in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 100).

The share of respondents reporting difficulties making end meet has decreased continuously between surveys. In 2003, 90% of the respondents had problems in making ends meet, and in 2016 the share was 63%. The share is still higher than the EU28 average of 39%, but advancing towards it.

  2003200720112016
Life satisfactionMean (1-10)4.55.05.55.6
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)5.95.86.36.4
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---58%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---66%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--12%10%
In general, how is your health?Very good-17%26%30%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-576466
Making ends meet

With some difficulty, difficulty

and great difficulty

90%83%77%63%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--23%25%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---34%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---37%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

Work-life balance related problems are more common in Bulgaria in comparison to the EU28 average. Following a visible trend is also seen in other EU countries, work-life balance in Bulgaria has deteriorated between 2011 and 2016. When looking at the breakdowns by gender, women in Bulgaria experienced more work-life balance related problems. They also experienced a faster deterioration in work-life balance than men from 2011 to 2016. For instance, in 2016, 70% of women reported being ‘too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done’ at least several times a month (compared with 68% of men), which is an increase of 7 percentage points from 2011 (the share of men did not change significantly since 2011). 

  2003200720112016
(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal72%65%66%69%
Men75%66%68%68%
Women69%64%63%70%
      
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal39%45%39%47%
Men35%49%39%44%
Women42%41%39%50%
      
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal12%18%20%17%
Men11%20%20%15%
Women13%16%20%19%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Trust in people has decreased in Bulgaria from 4.5 in 2011 to 4.0 in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 10). This is below the EU average of 5.2. Also, 2% of respondents in Bulgaria were involved in unpaid voluntary work at least once a month in 2016, this being the lowest share among the EU28 countries.

However, perceived tensions between poor and rich have decreased, from 53% of respondents reporting ‘a lot of’ tension in 2003 to only 21% in 2016. This share is even below the EU28 average of 29%. Perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups have increased from 13% in 2003 to 24% in 2016, following a visible trend among the EU countries. However, the share of respondents in Bulgaria reporting ‘a lot of’ this type of tension is still below the EU28 average of 41%.

  2003200720112016
Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-2.82.72.7
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)4.44.14.54.0
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--2%2%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'53%27%24%21%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'13%12%20%24%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree- -29%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

The perceived quality of almost all the public services has increased since 2003 in Bulgaria. For instance, between 2003 and 2016, the rating for health services increased from 3.5 to 5.7 (on a scale of 1–10), the education system from 4.4 to 5.8 and public transport from 4.9 to 6.0. Only the perceived quality of the state pension system has not improved; it got a rating of 3.5 in 2003, decreased to 2.7 in 2007, started to improve in 2011 and stood at 3.3 in 2016. Overall, the quality ratings for public services in Bulgaria are advancing towards the EU28 averages.

  2003200720112016
Health servicesMean (1-10)3.54.74.55.7
Education systemMean (1-10)4.44.94.95.8
Public transportMean (1-10)4.95.35.36.0
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-4.65.06.2
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--3.84.4
Social housingMean (1-10)--3.43.9
State pension systemMean (1-10)3.52.72.93.3

Working life in Bulgaria

About

  • Autor: Zlatka Gospodinova, Ivan Neykov
  • Institution: Balkan Institute for Labour and Social Policy
  • Published on: Kolmapäev, August 4, 2021

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Bulgaria. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

 

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Author: Tzvetomila Sabcheva
Institution: Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB)
Highlights updated on: 15 March 2021
Working paper: Bulgaria: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2020

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in social dialogue and improvements to some working life issues in Bulgaria. However, in some sectors, working life deteriorated, such as in the hospitality, catering, tourism and transport sectors, some services sectors (for example, personal services such as hairdressing), some social services sectors (for example, healthcare services provided at home) and other sectors providing services at home (for example, cleaning and furniture repair).

With the exception of the transport sector, in all of these sectors trade unions are relatively weak or have no presence at all. Most companies in these sectors are small or micro enterprises and many operate in the informal economy. The pandemic led to a worsening of working life for their employees.

Employees in cultural organisations in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector experienced some problems with working life during the pandemic. However, they received support during spring 2020 and at the beginning of the summer were able to resume activities again, with some live performance teams working during the whole summer. In autumn 2020, cultural organisations were able to continue working and, since November 2020, they have been allowed to work in venues with reduced capacity or with special protective measures (for example, in libraries). Publicly owned cultural organisations usually have trade unions, and their positions and actions helped to maintain the well-being of employees in this sector.

Some industrial companies experienced redundancies and problems with wage levels because of decreases in production, especially when they were part of the supply chain of bigger companies in Europe and other developed countries. However, in the industrial sector workers are better organised, and the existence of social dialogue and collective bargaining helped to solve some of these problems and reduce the negative impacts of the crisis.

Social dialogue was not disrupted by the pandemic. Tripartite consultations at national level continued, and several tripartite agreements were reached. In June 2020, a framework tripartite agreement was also reached. This provided an agenda on which areas to focus on and how to promote recovery from the pandemic. In addition, the agreement takes into consideration policies that have not been affected by the crisis.

In some sectors, tripartite consultations were stopped for several months; these were renewed in spring 2021. In many sectors, the social partners continue to pursue their bipartite dialogue, and in autumn 2020 various framework agreements (memorandums) were reached. Most of these focused on the consequences of the pandemic and on measures to protect workers’ health and preserve jobs and wage levels. In some sectors, framework agreements on the consequences of digitalisation and on the greening of the economy were also reached.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Bulgaria

 

2019

2020

% (point) change 2012–2019

% (point) change 2019–2020

 

Bulgaria

EU27

Bulgaria

EU27

Bulgaria

EU27

Bulgaria

EU27

GDP per capita

6,840

27,970

6,600

26,230

27.9%

11.5%

-3.5%

-6.2%

Unemployment rate – total

4.2

6.7

5.1

7.1

-8.1

-4.1

0.9

0.4

Unemployment rate – women

3.9

7

4.8

7.3

-6.9

-4.0

0.9

0.3 p

Unemployment rate – men

4.5

6.4

5.4

6.8

-9.0

-4.3

0.9

0.4

Unemployment rate – youth

8.9

15

14.2

16.8

-19.2

-8.7

5.3

1.8

Employment rate – total

73.2

73.4

72.2

72.9

6.1

2.4

-1.0

-0.5

Employment rate – women

68.7

67.9

67.6

67.5

5.5

3.0

-1.1

-0.4

Employment rate – men

77.6

79

76.8

78.3

6.6

1.8

-0.8

-0.7

Employment rate – youth

23.9

39.4

21.9

37.9

-6.5

-0.4

-2.0

-1.5p

Source: Eurostat – Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012–2020 (both based on sdg_08_10). Unemployment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–74 years, % active population) and youth (15–24 years) % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–64 years, unit % total population, employment indicator active population) % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

Between 2012 and 2019, Bulgaria experienced robust GDP growth of 27.9%, well above the EU average of 11.5%. Annual GDP growth stood at 4.4% in 2019. In 2019, unemployment decreased to 4.2% and remained below the EU average of 6.7%. Although declining, youth unemployment (up to 25 years of age) at 8.9% in 2019 is still higher than the total unemployment. Employment rates mark an upward trend in the seven years considered – 67.1% in 2012 to 73.2% in 2019. Employment of the age group 15–24 has fallen by 6.5 pp between 2012 and 2019.

On 10 July 2020, Bulgaria became a member of the ERM II and of the banking union. During that year, both economic and industrial relations development were marked by the COVID-19 crisis. Real GDP has decreased by 6.2% in 2020, youth unemployment has increased by 1.5 pp compared to 2019.

More information on:

Legal context

The Labour Code (Кодекс на труда) regulates labour relations between employee and employer, industrial relations, collective bargaining, and control of labour regulations compliance.

In 2014, the changes in the Labour Code defined the administrative regulation of a contract of apprenticeships supporting the transition from education and training to employment. In 2017, the Labour Code specified that the employment contract shall not be terminated in case of concession, letting of the enterprise for rent or lease. In 2018 changes to art. 49 of the Labour Code provided for mandatory registration of trade union and employer organisations as legal entities. This provision does not affect the present nationally representative organisations.

Notable amendments of the Labour Code in 2020 included encouragement of bilateral co-operation of social partners, applicability of the Labour Code to employment relations in Bulgaria and other countries, extension of collective labour agreements and their registration with the Labour Inspectorate, posting of temporary agency workers, employment contract for a defined number of days per month, night work, amendment of the annual limit for overtime work from 150 to 300 hours/year (only based on CLA), shorter required length of service for new recruits from eight to four months. Specific amendments were made for cases of declared state of emergency or declared emergency epidemic situation (lockdown) of the provisions related to home work and telework, part-time work, paid and unpaid leave, flexible working hours. The transitional provisions include extension of unpaid leave, which is recognised as contributory service (length of service), with 30 more days, up to 60 days. The employee’s representation and collective bargaining, and the criteria for national representation of social partners are regulated in the Labour Code. The Law for settlement of collective labour disputes deals with the adjustment of such disputes between employed and employers on issues of labour and social insurance relations and standard of living. The current conditions for defining the representation of organisations for employers and employees are settled in an Ordinance.

Overall control over labour legislation compliance in all economic sectors is provided by the General Labour Inspectorate, part of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. The functioning of the national system for labour inspection is determined by the Law for Labour Inspection (2009).

Industrial relations context

After the democratic changes at the beginning of 1990s, industrial relations in Bulgaria became decentralised. The National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) was established in 1993 and includes members of all representative trade unions and employers’ organisations, as well as the representatives of the government.

At national level, social dialogue is executed by NCTC in the Council of Ministers. At sectoral level, social dialogue is maintained by sectoral committees for tripartite cooperation. At municipal level there are Councils for social cooperation. The representatives of the local authorities also participate in the agreement process, related to the public sector: education, healthcare, culture, administration. At company level the trade unions and employer organisations participate together with employers in collective bargaining.

Since 2011, social dialogue and industrial relations in Bulgaria have been functioning in a complex political and economic climate, trying to avoid the government’s disregard of tripartism in taking decisions of national importance. In early 2012 the social partners developed common proposals to the government related to the stabilisation of the pension system and to improving tripartite and bipartite dialogue. In the end of 2014, the tension between employers, trade unions and public administration about the functioning of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation was related to the pension reform and changes in labour-related legislation. The employer organisations addressed the Supreme Administrative court, claiming the Ordinance for the minimum statutory wage for 2015 was unlawful because the decision had been taken without mandatory debate in the NCTC. With a similar argument – ‘jumping’ over the NCTC, the trade union confederations CITUB and Podkrepa contested the higher prices of heating and electricity, cancelled by the court. Tensions between employers, trade unions and the government were ongoing in 2017. The employers opposed the administrative decision for increase of the minimum wage and social security thresholds.

In 2020 social partners’ organisations official carried out their censuses, usually taking place once in every 4 years.

According to Dimitrov (2021) by the end of November 2020, no agreement was reached between the social partners on concluding an ‘Agreement on negotiating and determining the amount of the minimum wage for the country and on a procedure for negotiating the minimum wage by economic activities and qualification groups’. A step forward was the signed National Tripartite Agreement including agreement for restart of negotiations on the adoption of a transparent mechanism for national minimum wage negotiation. To tackle the multiple challenges posed by the pandemic, as mentioned in Dimitrov (2021), CITUB and the three employers organisations’ project partners (CEIBG, BIA and BICA) initiated the signing of bipartite Memoranda of the social partners for the prevention of COVID-19, preservation of jobs and adaptation of the skills of the workforce to the digitalising world of work. These memoranda were signed in the sectors Chemical Industry, Mining, Metallurgy, Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Industry, Energy, Water Supply and Sewerage, Construction, Textiles and Clothing, Food Industry, Brewing, Agriculture, and Culture.

In 2020, social partners participated actively in discussions with the government on the design of Covid-19 related economic and social measures, as well as with opinions on legislative amendments and draft bills. In 2021 there was a tension between employer’ and workers’ organisations during the discussions on the Labour Code amendment concerning time averaging, on-call and on-duty arrangements and overtime.

The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) together with the ‘Prof. Dr. Zhelyazko Hristov’ fund launched a national charity campaign, ‘You are not alone’, in support of working union members infected with the coronavirus.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section investigates the main actors and institutions and their role in Bulgaria.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The state plays a general role of regulating, controlling and facilitating industrial relations through its institutions. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is the main national authority dealing with labour regulations and working conditions. It carries out consultations and cooperation with representative organisations of workers and employers at the national level in the development and implementation of policies in the labour market, the protection of the national labour market and training the workforce.

There are no specialised labour courts in Bulgaria. All individual labour conflicts are dealt with by the general courts. In 2016, with a change at the Labour Court (art.45 ‘Representation in court’) the trade unions and their branches are entitled, by the request of employees, to represent them in court.

As a mediation and arbitration body, the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitrage (NICA) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy functions on a tripartite basis. The main aim of NICA is to facilitate the settlement of collective labour disputes through mediation and arbitration as an alternative, extrajudicial means of dispute settlement for collective labour conflicts.

The executive Agency ‘General Labour Inspectorate’ monitors the compliance of the labour legislation on quality of work, as well as Health and Safety at work.

The National Working Conditions Fund is created under the Law for Health and Safety Working conditions, providing finance for projects for improvement of working conditions with national, branch and sectoral importance.

Representativeness

The general rules of representativeness described in the Labour Code (Articles 34–35) were changed in 2012. (These changes were strongly questioned by institutions, employer organisations and trade unions. The President vetoed the initial proposal. Some of the suggested changes were rejected because of a ruling from the Constitutional Court.) In 2016, the Labour Code requirements for social partners’ representativeness have been reduced, making the eligibility easier to achieve.

The trade unions should prove the following to be accepted as nationally representative (art. 34, Labour Code, in force from 29.01.2016):

  • At least 50 000 members (75,000 in 2012);
  • Its members to be at least 50 organisations with not less than five members in each economic activity defined by NACE- second digit codes and approved by the National Statistical Institute (NSI).
  • Territorial representation – to have local branches in more than a quarter of municipalities in the country.
  • To have a national governing body.
  • Length of experience – to have the status of a legal entity, obtained by registration as a non-profit association at least three years before the census.

The employer organisations need to prove the following (art. 35, Labour code):

  • At least 1,500 member companies with no less than 50,000 employees in total, or 100 000 employees within all members of the employer organisation, working with employment contract.
  • They represent employers in more than a quarter of the NACE code-defined economic activities with no less than 5% of employees in each economic activity, or a minimum of 10 employers in each activity.
  • Its members – employer organisations to represent more than a quarter of activities defined by NACE second digit code, with no less than 5% of employees in each economic activity, or a minimum of 10 members in each activity;
  • Territorial representation – they represent employers in more than a quarter of Bulgaria’s municipalities.
  • Length of experience – they have the status of a legal entity, obtained by registration as a non-profit association at least three years before the census.

After the Census of the criterion for representativeness in 2012, the Ministry Council recognised as representative two trade union confederations: Confederation of independent trade unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), Confederation of labour Podkrepa, and four employers’ organisations: Confederation of employers and industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB), Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), and Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association. The Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE) and the Union of Private Bulgarian Entrepreneurs, ‘Vazrazhdane’ (UPBE) were not approved as representative in 2012. UPBE joined BICA.

Following the Labour Code amendments in 2016, a decision by the Council of Ministers dated 10 August 2016, based on a census on the representativeness of the social partners in Bulgaria, formally recognised five nationally representative employer organisations and two trade unions: Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (BICA); Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA); Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB); Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI); Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE); Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB); Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (CL Podkrepa). The next census was carried out in 2020 with the same outcome.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

The Labour Code (Articles 4 and 5) provides that employees/employers have the right, without prior authorisation, to freely form trade unions /organisations, voluntarily join or leave them, considering their statutes only. No exclusion of employees or sectors is regulated in the Labour Code. Civil servants can also form and be members of trade unions (Law for Civil Servants). Freedom of association is also defined in the Constitution Act (Article 49).

Some limitations are settled by other legislative documents, such as the Law for Ministry of Interior. The employees of the ‘Security’ system have the right to join trade unions for the Ministry of Interior only (none of the nationally representative social partners).

By 2003 union membership was steadily decreasing. Union density had also declined between 2008 and 2013, but relatively less than membership rate. This was due to the fact that overall employment also decreased by more than 15% in 2008–2012, as well as the shrinkage of some sectors – manufacturing, services and public administration. Since 2004 the main reasons for decline have been the privatisation of state companies, and the fact that more than 90% of companies are SMEs, which unions face challenges organising within. New forms of employment, such as self-employment, and workers in the grey economy, have also played a role.

According to Dimitrov (2018), trade union density still shows a trend of decline, although at slower pace. Data from official censuses for 2008, 2012 and 2016 are 16.9%, 16.4% and 15.4% respectively. According to Dimitrov density data is underrated, since it only includes the nationally representative trade unions. Some surveys taking into account also non-representative organisations show approximately 5% higher rates. This mismatch of data can be clearly seen when comparing the above figures with the figures in the following table.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)

n.a.

15.3

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)

13.8

13.9

12.8

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

Visser (2019)

Trade union density in terms of active employees (%)

n.a.

15.4

15.2

15.1

15.0

14.9

Dimitrov (2021)

Trade union membership in 1000s

n.a.

407

n.a

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union membership in 1000s

363.3

364.5

350.5

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

Visser (2019)

Trade union membership in 1000s

n.a.

351

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

335.9

Dimitrov (2021)

Sources: Visser (2019).

Note: Union density figures represent ‘Union density rate, net union membership as a proportion of wage and salary earners in employment’ (coded as (104) UD). Membership figures represent ‘Net Union Membership’ (coded as (97) NUM); (Dimitrov, 2021). Note on data on trade union density: Data for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are based on the official censuses and is underestimated as it is calculated on the basis of trade union members of the representative trade unions only.

Main trade union confederations and federations

The most important trade union confederations in Bulgaria, nationally representative, are the Confederation of Independent Trade unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour (CL) Podkrepa.

The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) is the largest trade union in Bulgaria. CITUB was established in 1990, on the basis of the old unique trade union during the communist period ( Balgarski Profesionalni Sauzi – BPS). (CL) Podkrepa was formed on 8 February 1989 by a small group of dissidents. During the first years of its existence (up to 1991), CL Podkrepa combined trade union and political activities. However, CL Podkrepa rapidly became the second largest trade union confederation in Bulgaria covering all economic sectors and regions.

In 2015–2016, CITUB and CL Podkrepa were very active in defending workers’ rights, proposing legislative changes and executing projects and campaigns. For its forthcoming 8th Congress in May 2017, CITUB defines as top priority the easy access of every citizen to education, training, qualification, retraining, information, career guidance, recognition of knowledge, skills and competencies acquired during working life and informally through each life stage. CITUB emphasises the importance of appropriate mechanisms to ensure and improve the quality and effectiveness of all educational measures.

Both national representative trade unions are running information campaigns targeting young people, offering them trade union opportunities in the case of starting their first job. CITUB organised meetings with graduates to present information on being out of the labour market and to whom they can turn for a consultation and trade union protection. CL Podkrepa started in February 2016 training activities for the unemployed within the project ‘Horizons’, part of the National Action Plan for Employment for 2016. The planned total number of persons to be trained is 1,150 unemployed persons and 460 trained unemployed persons within the project will be employed until the end of 2016. The target group of the project includes the most vulnerable unemployed: young people, the long-term unemployed, Roma people including those over 50 years of age with low qualification and those with disabilities, as well as discouraged unemployed out of the labour market. The first training sessions began on February 2016 and ended in July 2016.

In 2018 the most notable stand of the trade unions was the opposition of the proposal of employers’ associations to open the Bulgarian labour market for third country workers. Both nationally representative trade unions were decidedly against the employment and social dumping and refused to support the proposed amendments and supplements to the Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Act. According to them for the 18 months before February 2018 only 10 employers requested permission to employ third country citizens above the legally permitted 10%.

In 2018 CL Podkrepa organised a campaign for higher pay of night work, which has not been changed since 2007 and is merely BGN 0.25 per hour (same as when the minimum wage was BGN 180.00, compared to BGN 510 in 2018). The trade union insisted on night work pay of at least 0.5% of the national minimum wage.

In October 2018 the two nationally representative trade unions and the Executive Agency General Labour Inspectorate signed a Memorandum of cooperation, by means of which they agreed on joint actions guaranteeing a more-effective application of the labour laws and information and consultation of workers on their rights.

In 2018 CITUB and CL Podkrepa held joint protest actions in protection of the Bulgarian electric power industry, requesting a new power strategy 2030–2050 for the state to compensate for losses from the carbon emissions of power plant Maritsa Iztok 2.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Name in Bulgarian / English

Number of members

Involved in collective bargaining

2012

2016

2020

Конфедерация на независимите синдикати в България (КНСБ) / Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB)

275,762

271,312

262,394

Yes

Конфедерация на труда Подкрепа (КТ Подкрепа) / Confederation of Labour Podkrepa (Podkrepa CL)

88,329

79,567

73,536

Yes

Total

364,091

350,879

335,930

 

Source: Nationally representative trade union confederations and federations. Adapted from Dimitrov (2021), Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in Bulgaria 2020, quoting data from Ministry of Labour and Social Policy from official censuses carried out in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

All employers have the right to join employer organisations (Labour Code, Article 5). One company can be a member of more than one employer organisation. This multiple membership makes it difficult to evaluate the real density and membership rate. Up to the year 2000, the number of employer organisations increased. However, since 2012 there have been only four representative employers’ organisations at national level, compared to six before the official census.

The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) addressed the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria and after its supportive decision, BCCI obtained an approval for national representation in 2012. Through amendments of the Labour Code, the Parliament adopted lower criteria (50,000 members as it was between 1992–2012, instead of 75,000 members) for the national representativeness of the social partners. In late January 2016 the new census of the membership of employer representatives and trade unions involved in NCTC was organised and following that, in August 2016, five representative employer organisations received a mandate to operate until 2020. Based on the 2020 census, the five employers’ organisations are still nationally representative.

According to the publicly available census data in 2012, employer organisations cover approximately 14% of the companies in Bulgaria. After the new census in 2016 this percentage is unofficially calculated at 15.5 according to Dimitrov, P. (2018).

As the table below shows, the density in terms of establishments has increased between the 2016 and 2020 census, while density in terms of employees has decreased. This may mean that more, but smaller, establishments choose to become members of the employers’ associations.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2016

2019

2020

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

55.3

n.a.

n.a.

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

53.1%

n.a.

42.3%

Dimitrov (2018) based on 2016 Census.

Dimitrov (2021) based on 2020 Census

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

n.a.

6%

n.a.

ECS 2013 and 2019

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

15.5%

n.a.

17.6%

Dimitrov, P. (2018) based on 2016 Census

Source: Adapted from Dimitrov (2018, 2021) quoting MLSP – Census data 2016 and 2020; own calculations based of NSI statistics on the number of the enterprises in 2019 and the number of the employees in 2020 (first nine months).

*Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

According to the last census in 2016, the recent change in the legislative requirements (lowering the criteria for representation – returning the level of 50,000 members as it was in 1992–2012 instead of 75,000 members, and the decision of the Council of Ministers, there are five nationally representative employer organisations: the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE).

Only CEIBG is not a member of global and European social dialogue employers’ structures. The sectoral employers’ federations are part of collective bargaining through the branch councils for cooperation. However, not all the branches and economic activities have collective agreements in place. UPEE is a nongovernmental employers' organisation of micro, small and medium sized companies, founded in 1989 by the first entrepreneurs in Bulgaria to promote economic initiatives and representation of collective interests of employers in the labour market and industrial relations. UPEE is a member of SMEunitedand IOE.

The employer organisations publicly protested against the 2012 criteria (BIA, BCCI), calling them ‘discriminative’, and contradictory to the main principle of the international legislation. As a result of the 2012 census, the Council of Ministers disapproved the representativeness of the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE) and the Union of Private Bulgarian Entrepreneurs, ‘Vazrazhdane’ (UPBE). The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked the President of the Republic to veto the legislative changes.

The Association of the Organisations of Bulgarian Employers (AOBE), registered in 1995, is a free union of the former (before 2017) nationally representative employer organisations (BIA, BICA, BCCI and CEIBG) and is a collective member of the International Organisation of Employers.

The employer organisations have been very active in public discussions about labour legislation changes, for instance, on raising the minimum wage in 2015–2018, pension reform and social security issues – and often oppose the trade unions.

In 2018 the employer organisations boycotted the national negotiations for the new minimum insurance thresholds. This happened during the past two years. The representatives of employer organisations continue putting pressure on the Government for the facilitation of access of third-party skilled labour to the Bulgarian labour market.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations (2020 census)

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

2016 / 2020

Number of Employees with employment contract

2016 / 2020

Involved in collective bargaining?

Sectoral/branch organisations/ economic activities

2016 / 2020

Bulgarian Industrial Association /Българска стопанска камара

BIA/БСК

5,668 / 15,867

132,217 / 219,127

yes

117 / 73 branch organisations in 117 / 62 economic activities

Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (Конфедерация на работодателите и индустриалците в България)

CEIBG/КРИБ

4,598 / 6,813

378,869 / 309,251

yes

114 / 92 sectoral/ branch organisations in 117 / 71 economic activities

Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (Асоциация на индустриалния капитал в България)

BICA/АИКБ

8,281 / 6,083

317,617 / 131,710

yes

101 / 77 sectoral/ branch organisations in 60 / 60 economic activities

Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Българска Търговско-промишлена палата)

BCCI/БТПП

39,669 / 36,999

341,409 / 230,105

yes

73 / 85 branch organisations in 74 / 51 economic activities

Union for Private Economic Enterprise (Съюз за стопанска инициатива)

ССИ/UPEE

2,651 / 8,452

51,742 / 65,959

yes

40 / 37 sectoral/ branch organisations in 39 / 46 economic activities

Source: Adapted from Dimitrov (2021), Labour Relations and Social Dialogue in Bulgaria 2020, quoting data from Ministry of Labour and Social Policy from official censuses of employers’ organisations carried out in 2016 and 2020.

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concentration

The main tripartite body at national level is the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation with its commissions (created in 1993) in the Council of Ministers, dealing with labour-related issues, social security and quality of life. Another tripartite body is the Economic and Social Council (2001). Under the aegis of the Ministries, according to the Labour Code, there are established Branch Councils for Tripartite Cooperation, dealing with labour related issues, social security and living standards in the respective economic branch. The nationally representative social partners participate in management bodies of different state institutions.

The bipartite bodies are organised through branch/sectoral councils for social cooperation that are engaged in social dialogue on various labour and social security-related issues between employers and trade union representatives. According to CITUB, bipartite social dialogue is provided in 12 Councils for social cooperation. There is no comprehensive data base for all bipartite bodies and their activity. At the company level social dialogue on health and safety working conditions is conducted by the Working Conditions Committees/groups (WCC/WCG).

The mechanism for information and consultation is fixed in the Labour Code (Article 7a), regulating the election of representatives for information and consultation. The number of representatives of employees in the General Assembly depends on the size of the company. Collective bargaining is regulated by the Labour Code (Chapter 4).

The Social Pact for Economic and Social Development of Bulgaria until 2009 has been signed by the government and the representative social partners. There is also an Agreement on 59 anti-crisis measures drawn up by the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation in 2010. Two more national agreements were signed in 2010: one for home-based workers (Bulgaria’s ratification of ILO Convention No. 177 on home work of 1996) and one for teleworking (implementing the European social partners’ agreement on teleworking of 16 July 2002).

According to Dimitrov (2021), the tripartite social dialogue gained momentum in 2020 with a view to pending important amendments of laws. The most important issues discussed by the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) were employment measures and compensation schemes, income protection and financial support for the businesses in the time of crisis; the state budget for 2021. After nearly a year of negotiations, a National Tripartite Agreement was signed in June 2020 covering measures in 5 areas: business environment and economy; energy; European green deal; demography, education, labour market, and labour migration; social protection policies.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

National Council for Tripartite Cooperation/Национален съвет за тристранно сътрудничество

Tripartite

National

All labour-related issues

Economic and Social Council/Икономически и социален съвет

Tripartite

National

Economic and social development

National Council for Employment Promotion/Национален съвет за насърчаване на заетостта

Tripartite

National

National Plans for Employment and measures for increasing employment

National Consultative Council on vocational training of the labour force/Национален консултативен съвет по професионална квалификация на работната сила

Tripartite

National

Legislation and issues on vocational educations

National Council on Equality between Women and Men/Национален съвет по равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете

Tripartite

National

Equality of men and women

National Working Conditions Council/ Национален съвет по условия на труд

Tripartite

National

Health and safety

NICA/НИПА

Tripartite

National

Conciliation and arbitration

Workplace-level employee representation

There is no universal form of workplace representation in Bulgaria. The Labour Code allows the election of employees as representatives at company level for information and consultation (Directive 14/2002 EC, 2006), and participants in the company General Assembly, but this form is rarely used in Bulgaria. In most cases, employees transfer the representation function to the trade unions. Two other forms of work-place representation are possible: employee representatives for the protection of employees’ economic and social interests, and health and safety committees/groups.

The employee representatives can be elected in all companies with at least 50 employees (Article 7c of the Labour Code) and could vote in the General Assembly in information and consultation procedures. The number of representatives (between three and nine) depends on the size of establishment.

According to Dimitrov, P. (2018) employees’ representatives on information and consultation have been elected in only 20% of the enterprises covered by the law. Official national data is not available.

A law relating to the election of worker/employee representatives in European Works Councils (EWC) in multinational companies (MNCs) in bodies of supervision/management in European companies and in European cooperative societies is in force since 2006. According to Dimitrov (2021), by 2017 there were more than 30 MNC subsidiaries having elected representatives in the EWC.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Representative for information and consultation/представители за информиране и консултиране

Yes

3–9 employees (depending on the establishment size)

No, the representative could vote in the General Assembly in information and consultation procedures

At least 50 employees in the establishment

Trade union section/синдикална секция

Yes

Employees in the company

yes

Minimum three members

Employee representation at establishment level

Source: European Company Survey 2019 – Workplace practices unlocking employee potential, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

The above figure from the European Company Survey (ECS) 2019 compares Bulgaria with the European Union average for all workers for the question whether there is an ‘Official structure of employee representation present at establishment’.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in Bulgaria.

Bargaining system

According to the Labour Code, the CLAs in Bulgaria are concluded at enterprise, branch or sector, and municipal level. On the first two levels, only one CLA can be concluded. Usually the branch or sectoral agreements provide the general and minimum element of quality of work, in most cases not higher than those defined in labour legislation. The social partners at company level can negotiate more favourable clauses for better working conditions in the company CLA. On the municipality level the collective agreements are concluded for activities that are financed from the municipality budgets such as education, health, social services (Municipality CLA).

There is no wage bargaining coordination. The decentralisation of wage bargaining has been a typical trend for Bulgaria since 1989, and this was reinforced during the crisis.

The CLA is valid for the social partners who have signed the agreement, but also for non-trade union members who can join the collective agreement under certain conditions, according to the Labour Code.

The National statistics 2010-2014 and 2014-2016, provided by the National institute for conciliation and arbitration (NICA), also cover the public sector, education and health. In 2010–2014, almost half of the CLAs at company level were in education. The other sectors with more than 6% of CLAs are health, manufacture, and state administration. The NICA report (2016) on company CLAs shows that in 2016, approximately 290,000 employees were covered by CLAs, of which 38,701 were working in state administration, 88,000 employed in industry and 155,000 employed in services (62.6% of all CLAs).

Under the new rules for the provision and exchange of information between NICA and GLI, NICA has access to the Register of Collective Labour Agreements of GLI.

Wage bargaining coverage

European level statistics point to collective wage bargaining coverage of between 34% (2010) and 17% (2019) within private sector establishments and suggest a fall in coverage over the past decade.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees

Level

% (year)

source

All levels

27.8 (2018)

2021 – OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

All levels

23 (2013)

2013 – ECS

All levels

17 (2019)

2019 – ECS

All levels

34 (2010)

2010 – SES

All levels

23 (2014)

2014 – SES

All levels

32 (2018)

2018 – SES

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2019 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-SxO), single answer for each local unit: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement – online dataset codes: [EARN_SES10_01], [EARN_SES14_01], [EARN_SES18_01] (Percentage of employees working in local units where more than 50% of the employees are covered under a collective pay agreement against the total number of employees in the scope of the survey); OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021.

Higher than the minimum wages have been agreed in 29% of the establishment level CLAs covering also 29% of employees.

Wages above the national minimum wage agreed in CLAs

 

CLAs

No. employed

CLAs

No. employed

CLAs

No. employed

2019

2018

2017

Public sector:

442

56,964

453

62,662

411

57,943

Companies

437

56,623

451

62,430

409

57,711

Government administration

5

341

2

232

2

232

Private sector:

42

35,421

62

46,255

71

48,798

National companies

15

18,827

27

20,238

35

24,047

Foreign companies

27

16,594

35

26,017

36

24,751

Total

484

92,385

515

108,917

482

106,741

Large companies

67

72,271

75

87,504

78

86,146

Medium-sized companies

139

13,191

145

13,929

146

14,014

Small companies

259

6,804

269

7,344

237

6,465

Micro companies

17

119

23

140

17

116

n.a.

2

 

3

 

4

0

Total

484

92,385

515

108,917

482

106,741

Source: Adapted from NICA (2021) Annual report on Collective Labour Agreements and Collective Labour Disputes in Bulgaria 2019

Bargaining levels

The main issues, covered by all levels of CLAs, are related to employment, pay and working conditions.

Industry (sectoral) level CLAs include general sector specific issues such as details on bonuses for productivity, quality of work, hazardous working conditions, working time, health and safety at work, redundancy procedures, protection against discrimination, work-life balance, information and consultation issues.

Municipal level CLAs concern activities as education, health care, culture as financed by the municipality budgets. Municipal CLAs cannot define less favourable employment and working conditions than the sectoral CLAs.

Company level collective agreements are more detailed and cover qualification requirements, specific working time and leave, pay rates, health and safety, social insurance, trade union activities, disputes procedures and social benefits.

According to CITUB analyses for 2014, some of the sectoral/branch or company CLAs provide a wider scope of information and consultation, including: application of new technologies, restructuring even without direct effect on employment (enterprises and/or branch/sectoral level in metallurgy, mechanical engineering, woodworking and furniture industry, pulp and paper industry, textiles), investments (metallurgy, brewery industry, woodworking and furniture industry, paper industry), labour mobility, creating jobs for people with disabilities (metallurgy), finance of the enterprises (textile, wood and furniture, pulp and paper industry, metallurgy, mining). In some sectoral/branch or company CLAs the deadlines for providing information and consultations in cases of mass dismissals are more favourable to employees compared to the general legislative requirements (metallurgy, engineering, woodworking and furniture, pulp and paper industry, forestry, brewery industry).

There is no collective bargaining at national level, although social dialogue at national level is represented in the NCTC, discussing all labour related legislative changes and policies. Bulgaria has a minimum wage which is set by the government after consultation with employers and unions in NCTC.

the past three years the number of effective CLAs at company level has decreased and at municipal and sectoral/branch level remains almost the same.

Effective CLAs by bargaining level as of the year end for the period 2011–2020

Bargaining level

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Company level

1,972

1,877

1,818

1,665

1,681

1,524

Sector/branch level

21

22

18

19

19

18

Municipal level

62

55

55

52

54

54

Total

2 , 055

1 , 954

1 , 891

1 , 736

1 , 754

1 , 596

Source: Adapted from NICA (2021) Annual report on Collective Labour Agreements and Collective Labour Disputes in Bulgaria 2019

Levels of collective bargaining, 2019

 

Sectoral level

Municipal level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

       

X

X

Important but not dominant level

X

X

       

Existing level

   

X

X

   

Note: Statutory Minimum wage is defined by legislation. CLAs can define the minimum wage at sector/company level, but not lower than the statutory minimum wage for the country. Working time is also defined by legislation. Company level CLAs can sometimes define working times and shifts within legislative provisions.

Articulation

There is no comparative information or specialised legislation prescribing how the levels are linked to each other. One of the possible practices could be that if a company is within a sector with a CLA, the company agreement will use most, or all the provisions agreed for the sector, trying to upgrade at least some of them. However, there are companies with very detailed and comprehensive CLAs. In 2017, in the sectors K, L, N, O and S (in 2014 – sectors J, K, L, M, N, O and S) there are no sectoral CLAs, but the company level is presented (NICA).

Timing of the bargaining rounds

The Labour Code prescribes the maximum duration of collective agreements as two years and this option is usually used. Therefore, there is no specific month or time of year when the negotiations begin. Negotiations are usually initiated three months before the expiry of the validity of the previous collective agreement. This applies to the sector or branch and company collective agreements on the condition that company contracts comply with the existing minimum levels at sector or branch level.

Coordination

The sectoral CLAs define the minimum wage for the sector (with individual variations depending on level of education, nature of work, working time). The employer could confirm or increase it (or decrease it in cases of derogation) taking into account the company’s economic situation, provided it is not less than the minimum statutory pay.

Vertical CLA coordination (Chapter 4, Labour Code 1986) has been replaced by the adoption of the traditional type of collective bargaining, with negotiations between equal partners or their representatives. The most important CLA in Bulgaria is at company level, followed by branch/sectoral CLAs.

Extension mechanisms

According to the Labour Code (Article 54b:4), ‘when the collective agreement at sectoral or branch level is concluded between all the representative organisations of workers and employers in the sector or industry, at their joint request the Minister of Labour and Social Policy may extend the application of the contract or of its individual clauses in all enterprises of the sector or industry’. The role of sectoral collective agreements has become more significant since 2010-2011 when the clause extending them to all companies in the respective sector came into force. In 2010 the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, after consulting the social partners, extended the validity of collective agreements in water supply (Feb 2010) and sewerage (Sept 2012), brewing (May 2010, Nov 2011, Sept 2013), cellulose paper (Aug 2010, Jul 2012), wood processing and furniture (2010), mining (May 2011) and metallurgy (2011). The CLA register of the General Labour Inspectorate includes information about the extended, ongoing and expired CLAs. Since 2012, there are no new extending orders by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and after 2014 there are no additional extended CLA’s. The General Labour Inspectorate holds the CLA register, where the decisions to extend sectoral CLAs are also available. The extension mechanism has been used up to 2012–2014. For example, the industry (branch) collective agreement for the industry 'Exploration, production and processing of mineral resources’ (2011–2013) has been extended for all companies, operating in B 05; B 06; B 07; B 08; B 09; C 19.2; C 20.51; C 23.52; C 23.62; C 23.7; F 42; F 43.13; H 49.41; M 72. In 2018, there is one extended CLA in the Brewing industry, extended once again in January 2020 for another 2 years.

The Labour Code provisions on collective bargaining were changed to include a simplified sector/branch collective labour agreements extension procedure (Article 51b, paragraph 4) and establishing fair mechanisms for joining a CLA (Art. 57, paragraph 2).

Derogation mechanisms

If there are financial difficulties in companies (including in subsidiaries of multinational companies) the sectoral/branch or company CLAs could set wages lower than those negotiated in collective agreements for some period of time, but they must not be less than the national monthly minimum statutory wage. For instance, the Annex from 2015 of the metal industry CLA provides for a lower wage where there are reduced volumes of work or shrunken market shares.

Expiry of collective agreements

A collective agreement should be concluded for a period of at least one year. If not specified, it could last up to two years. The parties may agree a shorter duration for some of its clauses (Labour Code, Article 54:2). Negotiations for a new collective agreement shall commence not later than three months before the expiry of the current collective agreement.

Peace clauses

Peace clauses exist in Bulgarian CLA practice. According to NICA (2018) 47.5% of the active CLAs (covering 80,721 employees) have such clause.

For the period 2017–2019 the number of CLAs with peace clause has been steadily increasing during the past three years to reach 78.1% of CLAs in 2019 covering 68% of employed, as shown in the table below.

 

2019

2018

2017

CLA

(number)

Employed

(number)

CLA

(number)

Employed

(number)

CLA

(number)

Employed

(number)

With peace clause

1,305

78.1%

216,483

68.0%

1,048

63.0%

197,783

61.8%

549

30.2%

93,034

28.0%

Without peace clause

365

21.9%

101,990

32.0%

615

37.0%

122,275

38.2%

1,267

69.8%

238,693

72.0%

Total

1,670

100%

318,473

100%

1,663

100%

320,058

100%

1,816

100%

331,727

100%

Source: NICA (2021). Database on CLAs and CLDs

One example of a peace clause is present in the sectoral CLA for the brewing industry. The peace clause is included in the Final Provisions, Paragraph 3, p.20: ‘For the duration of this CLA, the trade unions will refrain from effective strike actions under the terms of the agreements reached, except in cases of their registered violation, non-fulfilment or refusal for negotiations for amendment under the established procedure’.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

In almost all sectoral/branch and company collective agreements there are clauses concerning training, but rarely lifelong learning. As part of the sectoral CLA, the social partners in the metal industry have agreed to set up regional training centres and, in the textile sector, branch funds have been set aside for workers to get qualifications; in construction, employers have agreed to set up a special training fund. Usually CLAs include clauses covering almost the entire range of the employment relationships – pay and benefits, working time and leaves, health and safety.

Almost all collective agreements contain a general provision for equality and non-discrimination at work.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The Law for Collective Labour Dispute Resolution is the legal framework defining the ‘right to strike’. The main type of industrial action is the ‘Active strike’ (ефективна стачка), during which employees are terminating their work. It may be organised where conciliation, arbitrage or negotiations have had no success. During the strike, employees need to be present at the employer’s site within their regular working time. Another form is the ‘symbolic strike’ (символична стачка) which involves working as usual while wearing or placing appropriate signs, protest posters, ribbons, badges or other appropriate symbols. This kind of strike can also be used by healthcare workers or the police, because the law forbids active strikes within such sectors.

Industrial action developments

No official national data sources on industrial action are available for Bulgaria.

NICA maintains its own register of collective labour disputes (CLD), which is not representative. In 2015, the number of collective labour disputes registered by NICA was 24, and in 2019 it was 7. There were no effective strikes in 2019.

Registered collective labour disputes, 2015–2019

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Number of registered CLD (strikes incl.)

24

25

13

9

7

Number of registered effective strikes*

9

2

3

0

0

Number of employees participated in strikes

206

130

121

0

0

Number of lost working days in strikes

1,625

390

313

0

0

Number of employees affected by CLD

30,419

69,356

36,527

8,557

9,208

Source: NICA, Annual report for collective disputes on the NICA database, March 2016 and Annual Report on Collective Labour Agreements and Collective Labour Disputes 2017, 2019

*The data include only effective strikes in 2015–2017

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

According to the Law for Collective Labour Dispute Resolution, collective labour disputes are settled through direct negotiations between workers and employers or between their representatives in a procedure, freely determined by the negotiating parties. Strikes are forbidden (art. 16) in the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior, Judicial, prosecutorial and investigative bodies, State Agency ‘Intelligence’ and the National Security Service.

When no agreement is reached or one of the parties refuses to negotiate, each may seek assistance for the settlement of the dispute by mediation and/or voluntary arbitration of trade unions and employers' organisations and/or the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitration.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

According to the Labour Code (Article 357), labour disputes are between employee and employer on the occurrence, existence, implementation and termination of employment, as well as disputes over the implementation of collective agreements and the establishment of service. Such disputes could be by law (claims for rights on labour) on legislation, collective agreements or individual agreement rights and obligations. These individual disputes are dealt with by the courts. As there are no labour courts in Bulgaria, the civil courts are competent for these cases, or administrative courts in some cases. Trade unions and their branches are able (Labour Code, new change in 2016) to represent the employees, upon their request, in court.

There are also non-legal disputes of interest – related to the establishment of envisaged rights and obligations. This kind of individual dispute could be agreed between the employer and employee. In case the agreement cannot be achieved, the dispute resolution must be provided by the court.

Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

The alternative dispute resolution mechanism is carried out by the National Institute for Conciliation and Arbitrage (NIPA). As a rule, in recent years, the parties have settled disputes between themselves with the help of their own supreme structures, without using external assistance from NIPA.

Within the period Jan 2017–Sep 2017, there were six collective labour disputes. The reasons for these labour disputes registered by NIPA are the requirements for working conditions improvements, delay of payment of wages, wage increase and guarantee for labour security.

According to NICA (NICA, 2012) during the period 2004–2012, 26 arbitration procedures were accepted by NICA. In 2015, there were one conciliation procedure and one arbitration procedure at NICA. The conciliation procedure was terminated due to failure to achieve an agreement between the parties in dispute. The arbitration procedure took place because of unattainable agreement with the employer, and with its decision avoided organisation of an effective strike. In 2015, NICA organised one mediation procedure of a collective labour dispute, which was unresolved due to disagreement between the participants in the dispute. There is no data for 2016. There have been no requests for conciliation and arbitration to NICA in 2017.

It is reported that one of the main reasons for the low arbitration activity is the refusal of one of the parties to enter into negotiations. According to NICA management, 95% of collective labour disputes are settled using direct negotiations between the disputing parties, including and with the help or support of trade unions and employers’ organisations and/or government bodies, institutions and organisations directly or indirectly involved. It is possible to use extrajudicial methods for settling collective labour disputes. With the assistance of NICA, in 2012 there was one procedure to determine the minimum services that should be maintained in the case of a strike (under Article 14:3 of the Law for settlement of collective labour disputes). There was only one mediation procedure requested in 2018 concerning collective labour at the Municipal Public Transport Service Company.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Bulgaria.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The start of employment relationship should follow the signature of a written employment contract (Labour Code, Article 61).

The minimum working age is 18 years. For those over 16 and under 18 years of age, an employment contract must be authorised by the Labour Inspectorate. A work permit for a minor (below 18 years of age) must be applied for from the Labour Inspectorate. The formal requirements (documents and certificates) for entering into an employment relationship are listed in Regulation No. 4.

The employment contract has to be issued before the start of the employment relationship. Within three days of the conclusion or modification of the employment contract and within seven days of its termination the employer or authorised person is obliged to notify the relevant territorial directorate of the National Revenue Agency. Upon conclusion of the employment contract, the employer informs the employee about the specific obligations arising from his office or work performed.

Short-term employment contracts – for short-term seasonal agricultural work – were introduced into the Labour Code in July 2015 (Article 114a:1) especially for seasonal agricultural work on a day-to-day basis between the worker and registered farmer, for work that does not qualify as work experience.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The Labour Code allows termination of the employment contract by mutual agreement without notice and without compensation (Labour Code, Article 325:1, item 1), termination initiated by the employee with a notice (Article 326:2, item 1), termination initiated by the employer during the probation period (Article 71:1), termination initiated by the employer against an agreed compensation (Article 331), job cuts. The reasons for terminating the labour relationship could be expiry of the agreed period or completion of the work specified in the contract (Labour Code, Article 325:4). An employment contract could be terminated also if a job is to be reassigned to someone who has the right to take it, such as someone returning from parental leave; if an employee is unable to perform assigned work due to illness resulting in permanent disability, or medical contraindications based on the conclusion of an expert medical committee. However, termination is not allowed on this last criterion if the employer has other work suitable for the health of the employee and he/she is willing to take it. An employment contract may also be terminated on the death of the person with whom the employee has entered into an employment contract or with the death of the employee.

Some categories of employees are protected in case of dismissal (Labour Code, Article 333), such as the mother of a child under three years of age; a reassigned employee; an employee suffering from a disease determined by the Minister of Health; an employee who has begun a period of permitted leave; an employee who is an elected employee representative; an employee who is elected to represent workers on safety and health at work; employee who is a member of the special negotiating body of a European Works Council or a representative body in the European commercial or cooperative sector while performing its functions. Where it is stipulated in the collective agreement, the employer may dismiss an employee because of staff cuts or reduce their volume of work with the prior consent of the relevant trade union body in the company.

See also further information on unemployment benefit provisions in Bulgaria .

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The calculation of maternity leave compensations changed from 1 January 2015 with the introduction of the Law on the budget of the State Social Security (SSS) for 2015. The compensations for maternity leave are calculated on the basis of 90% of the average income, on the basis of 24 calendar months before the start of maternity leave (previously 18 months in 2014). The eligible person for these contributions should have a 12-month total insurance record for this social security risk.

NSSI publishes quarterly and annual data on short-term cash benefits, including pregnancy and birth and paternity/parental leave. Data on leaves for fathers is being collected since 2008. The uptake is only published as ratio between number of benefits (person/months) for men and women. Latest data (2019) shows a decline of paternity benefits after a slight increase in 2015 and 2016. This may be due to the fact that maternity/paternity leave benefit for raising a child is BGN 380 per month and men still have higher wages than women, which makes it more logical for the woman to raise the child.

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Number of childcare benefits

517,349

528,418

528,525

539,256

533,170

women

510,055

521,229

521,697

534,110

528,634

men

7,294

7,189

6,828

5,146

4,536

women – % of total

98.6%

98.6%

98.7%

99.0%

99.1%

men – % of total

1.4%

1.4%

1.3%

1.0%

0.9%

Source: Adapted from table “Social Indicators by Gender 2012–2019”, National Social Security Institute

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

410 calendar days, of which 45 days obligatory should be taken before the child’s birth. The father could use instead of the mother the remainder of 410 days parental leave with the consent of the mother after the child is over 6 months of age.

Reimbursement

90% of the average gross salary or the average daily insurance income on which contributions are paid or payable to insurance and for self-employed persons – paid insurance contributions for a total illness and leave for the period of 24 calendar months (2015).

Who pays?

Social security contributions by employer and insured person for the Fund ‘General Illness and maternity’, in the proportions 60/40. The maternity leave compensations are paid by the Fund.

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Parental leave

Maximum duration

Leave for children up to two years old (two years and six months for every additional child). It can be transferred to the father, grandmother or grandfather.

Reimbursement

Cash benefit for raising a child up to two years is fixed annually in the State Budget. For 2018–2019 it was fixed at BGN 380 (€194).

Who pays?

Social Security Fund

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

1) The father of a new-born child acquires the right to use 15 calendar days of leave immediately after the delivery of the baby from the hospital.

2) The father can use the rest of 410 days parental leave with the consent of the mother after the child is over six months.

Reimbursement

1) 90% of the average gross wage or average daily contributory income for up to 15 calendar days if there are 12 months of social security contributions.

2) 90% of the average gross salary

Who pays?

Social Security Fund

Legal basis

Social Security Code (in force since 2000)

Sick leave

According to Article 40:5 and Article 41 of the Social Security Code, the general principle for the insured persons for general illness and maternity is that the daily cash benefit for temporary disability due to sickness is calculated at 80% of the average gross salary, and for temporary disability due to accident or occupational disease, 90% of the average gross salary or the average daily insurance income on which social security contributions have been paid or payable The insurer (employer) pays the insured person for the first three days of the temporary disability 70% of the average daily gross remuneration for the month in which temporary disability occurred, but not less than 70% of the average daily wage agreed. The daily cash benefit for temporary loss of working capacity due to general disease is 80% and for temporary loss of working capacity due to workplace accident or occupational disease – 90% calculated on the average daily gross remuneration or the average daily insurable income for which insurance payments have been paid or are due, and for the self-insured persons – calculated on the insurance contributions for the past18 calendar months preceding the occurrence of the temporary loss of working capacity, paid by that person as insurance for general disease and maternity (Article 41:1). The Labour Code (Article 333) provides protection from termination of employment to pregnant women, mothers until their child is three, people on sick leave or on any legal leave. Under different circumstances, described in the Labour Code, the employer may make the dismissal but only with prior written permission from the labour inspectorate, which must be received before the dismissal is made.

Where general illness, professional disease or an accident at work appears 30 calendar days after termination of an employment contract, or social security contributions, compensation can be paid for temporary inability, but for no longer than 30 calendar days.

Since 2018, the Social Security Code includes new regulation abolishing the possibility to obtain a benefit for temporary incapacity for work (sickness) after the termination of employment (Art.42. 2 has been annulled).

Retirement age

The conditions for retirement on the basis of social security contributions and age are regulated in the Social Security Code, (Article 68:1&2, in force since 2000). The National Social Security Institute provides detailed information on the conditions, depending on the year of retirement, gender, age and working duration. The retirement age is reached at the age of 60 years and 10 months for women and 63 years and 10 months for men, with a pensionable service of 35 years and two months for women and 38 years and two months for men.

As of December 31, 2016, the age will increase from the first day of each following calendar year as follows:

  • until 31 December 2029 the age of women will increase by two months for each calendar year, and from 1 January 2030 – by three months for each calendar year, until the age of 65;
  • until 31 December 2017 the age of men will increase by two months, and from 1 January 2018 – by one month for each calendar year, until the age of 65;
  • from December 31, 2016, the length of pensionable service under Para 1 shall be increased from the first day of each following calendar year by two months until reaching pensionable service of 37 years for women and 40 years for men.

In case the persons are not entitled to pension under Para 1 and 2, before 31 December 2016 they will be entitled to pension at the age of 65 years and 10 months for women and men and at least 15 years of actual pensionable service. After 31 December 2016 the age will increase from the first day of each subsequent calendar year with 2 months, until reaching the age of 67.

The weight of a year of contributory service in the pension formula increased from 1.169% to 1.2%. This percentage is applied (for each year of service) when calculating the amount of pensions for length of service and age and other employment pensions granted with a starting date after 31.12.2018, since 1 July 2019.

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Bulgaria and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

The monthly minimum statutory wage is set by administrative decision of the Government, after consultations with social partners within the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. The administrative increase in the past four to five years, supported only by trade unions, but not by employers’ organisations have been subject to an active debate. The minimum wage increases from 340 BGN in 2014 to 560 BGN in 2019 provoked negative reactions of employer organisations, stating that the increase is a heavy burden on Bulgarian employers. In 2020 the national minimum wage was again raised by an administrative decisions to BGN 610 and in 2021 to BGN 650.

The average wage in Bulgaria will continue to grow under the pressure of strong demand for skilled workforce and its competitive remuneration within the common European labour market, following the convergence tendency.

Median gross monthly earnings per worker of employees with employment contract by economic activity and sex – 2014 and 2018 (in EUR)

NACE rev. 2

2014

2018

Median gross monthly earnings

Median gross monthly earnings

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Total

284

273

390

388

B. Mining and quarrying

624

468

873

678

C. Manufacturing

299

235

452

364

D. Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

646

557

899

752

E. Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

325

257

395

354

F. Construction

279

293

312

333

G. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

263

242

336

312

H. Transportation and storage

237

287

330

379

I. Accommodation and food service activities

227

225

274

269

J. Information and communication

657

562

1,174

917

K. Financial and insurance activities

593

479

731

581

L. Real estate activities

242

239

323

330

M. Professional, scientific and technical activities

305

296

515

441

N. Administrative and support service activities

194

232

280

318

O. Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

412

397

497

465

P. Education

368

374

530

521

Q. Human health and social work activities

359

319

466

410

R. Arts, entertainment and recreation

245

235

358

343

S. Other service activities

200

186

307

277

Gross monthly earnings (full-time equivalents) per worker of employees with employment contract by economic activity and sex – 2014 and 2018 (in EUR)

NACE rev. 2

2014

2018

Gross monthly earnings (full-time equivalents)

Gross monthly earnings (full-time equivalents)

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Total

439

382

615

528

B. Mining and quarrying

653

556

858

766

C. Manufacturing

403

308

570

447

D. Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

780

660

1,050

908

E. Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

405

339

477

445

F. Construction

365

390

469

518

G. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

385

327

556

472

H. Transportation and storage

384

391

547

523

I. Accommodation and food service activities

292

259

385

351

J. Information and communication

959

789

1,462

1,132

K. Financial and insurance activities

802

634

1,013

775

L. Real estate activities

449

414

541

527

M. Professional, scientific and technical activities

563

470

850

706

N. Administrative and support service activities

304

382

415

536

O. Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

536

507

641

583

P. Education

467

399

623

555

Q. Human health and social work activities

572

405

739

526

R. Arts, entertainment and recreation

333

297

538

424

S. Other service activities

309

277

415

396

Notes: *Preliminary data. Economic activities covered: NACE Rev.2 sections B – S, including section O. Size of enterprises covered: enterprises with 1 or more employees. Categories employees covered: all employees with earnings during October 2018.

Source: National Statistical Institute (2021), table Labour_4.2.2.1.xls for 2014 and 2018. Amounts in BGN were converted to EUR using an exchange rate of 1.95583. Year 2014 has been used for reporting, since it was the first year of providing median wages within the Structure of Earnings – national level, four-year periodicity corpus of NSI.

Minimum wages

In Bulgaria, the government sets the monthly minimum statutory wage following consultations with the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation. The increase in the period 2015–2020 was accompanied by active debate between the social partners and the government. In general, the change in the minimum statutory wage is introduced in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation during the presentation of the State Budget, but the Minister could set the minimum wage administratively, if agreement is not reached by the social partners.

The minimum collectively agreed wages have three main forms.

  • The minimum wage in the companies of the respective sector/industry is equal to the minimum statutory wage of the country and it is increased by an agreed coefficient
  • In some CLAs the amount of the minimum wage in the company complies with the minimum wage for the country
  • The minimum insurance income (MII) could be used as a basis for calculating the minimum wage for the sector/branch/company.

Minimum insurance threshold (MIT) by economic activities and professions should not be lower than the amount of the national statutory minimum wage. The social partners have reached an agreement on minimum insurance income for 2014 for 58 of the 85 economic activities, but in 2016 MIT was increased administratively in 45% of the economic sectors because of the increase of the minimum wage, without an agreement with the social partners. The minimum insurance income for 2019 is available on the webpage of the National Revenue Agency. Based to the EC proposal for Directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU, the statutory minimum wage in Bulgaria might increase incrementally to reach the benchmark of 50% of the average country wage.

Statutory minimum wage in BGN (EUR) 2015–2021

 

01 Jan 2015

01 Jan 2016

01 Jan 2017

01 Jan 2018

01 Jan 2019

01 Jan 2020

01 Jan 2021

Adult rate

360 (184)

420 (215)

460 (235)

510 (260)

560 (286)

610 (312)

650 (332)

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

 

2019

2018

 

CLA

Employed

CLA

Employed

As an amount

432

89.3%

55,695

60.3%

367

71.3%

48,919

44.9%

As a coefficient to the minimum national wage

49

10.1%

36,489

39.5%

81

15.7%

53,718

49.3%

As a coefficient to the minimum industry/branch wage

3

0.6%

201

0.2%

67

13%

6 280

5.8%

Total

484

100%

92,385

100%

515

100%

108,917

100%

Share of CLA in force

29%

 

29%

 

31%

 

34%

 

Source: NICA database, April 2021

Pay bargaining includes the above company-level minimum wage above the national minimum wage, as well as one or more of the following:

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Bulgaria.

Working time regulation

The Labour Code regulates normal, extended, reduced, part-time, on-call and night working time. The maximum normal working time is five days per week, up to 40 working hours weekly (Article 136, Labour Code) and eight working hours per day five days per week (Article 136, Labour Code). The table below presents data on CLAs that include additional agreements regarding working time.

Collectively agreed working time arrangements in % of total CLAs and total number of CLAs and employed

 

2019

2018

2017

 

CLAs

Employed

CLAs

Employed

CLAs

Employed

Part-time work

16.7%

38.4%

15.9%

39.0%

12.7%

33.2%

Reduced working hours

19.9%

36.0%

20.0%

37.2%

15.6%

30.3%

Extended working hours

12.3%

28.5%

12.5%

25.5%

10.1%

22.7%

Time averaging

22.1%

39.4%

20.4%

43.4%

16.4%

32.1%

             

Total number of CLAs and employed

1,670

318,473

1,663

320,058

1,816

331,727

Source: NICA (2021), adapted from database on CLAs

As evident the percentage of agreements on all types of variations of working time have increased for the period concerned, giving a hint that perhaps the employers experience greater need of flexibility.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

Overtime is generally forbidden according to the Labour Code. It is allowed only exceptionally (Labour Code, Articles 143 and 144) in the following cases: to perform work in connection with the defence of the country; for the prevention, control and overcome the effects of disasters; to carry out urgent public works necessary for restoration of water, electricity, heating, sanitation, transport and communication links and medical assistance; to carry out emergency repairs and restoration work in the workplaces, machinery or other equipment; to complete the work started, which cannot be done during regular working hours; for intensive seasonal agricultural work.

The duration of overtime in a calendar year for an employee may not exceed 150 hours (Article 146:1, 2 & 3). In 2021 a new provision was added to this Article, allowing up to 300 hours of overtime per year, provided this has been agreed in a CLA. The duration of overtime may not exceed: three hours’ day work or two hours’ night work during two consecutive days, six hours’ day work or four hours’ night work per calendar week, 30 hours’ day work or 20 hours’ night work per calendar month. Overtime work shall be paid (Article 262, Labour Code) with a premium agreed between the employee and the employer, but not less than: +50% for weekdays; +75% for weekend work; +100% for work during official holidays; +50% for work when time averaging is applied.

Part-time work

Part-time work in Bulgaria is defined by the Labour Code (Article 138). Reduction of the volume of work could provide the opportunity for the employer to establish up to three months in a calendar year part-time work, after prior consultation with representatives of trade unions or representatives of employees.

There are special provisions (Ordinance on the types of work which qualify for reduced working hours) about occupations that present health risks which cannot be eliminated, restricted or reduced, but a reduction in working hours (six and seven hours per day) results in limiting these risks for employees. In general, part-time work cannot be less than half of the statutory working hours. In a daily calculation of working hours, the daily duration of part-time work may not be less than four hours in a normal eight-hour working day; three-and-a-half hours in a normal seven-hour working day; and three hours in a six-hour working day. According to the data, part-time work in Bulgaria is a relatively rare practice, in 2019 it was reported to be 1.8% of all employed, 2.1% of which are women and 1.6% are men. These figures are well below the EU average of 17.8% (total) in 2018 and 2019.

Persons employed part-time in Bulgaria and EU27 (% of total employment)

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total (EU27)

18.2

18.1

18

17.8

17.8

16.6

Total (Bulgaria)

2.2

1.9

2.1

1.8

1.8

1.8

Women (EU27)

30.2

30

29.8

29.5

29.4

27.6

Women (Bulgaria)

2.4

2.2

2.3

2

2.1

2.1

Men (EU27)

8

7.9

7.9

7.7

7.8

7.2

Men (Bulgaria)

1.9

1.7

2

1.6

1.6

1.6

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part time because they could not find a full-time job.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time work in the EU27 and Bulgaria (% of total part-time employment)

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total (EU27)

32.3

31

29.7

28

26.5

25

Total (Bulgaria)

60.6

59.2

59

58.5

52.2

55.5

Women (EU27)

28.8

27.7

26.4

25.2

23.9

22.5

Women (Bulgaria)

59.4

60.9

47.5

53.5

43.3

47.1

Men (EU27)

43.6

41.8

40.4

37.2

34.9

33.1

Men (Bulgaria)

62

57.4

72.7

63.2

64.3

64.2

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai] – involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Compared to the data for EU27, the general involuntary part-time rate in Bulgaria is very high, although showing a decreasing trend. There was a steady decrease in the percentage of women employed in this category, from 66.4% in 2012 to 53.5% in 2018 and 43.3% in 2019. The opposite is the case for men, where figures are somewhat fluctuating with highest value of 72.7% in 2017, then dropping to 63.2% in 2018 and going up again to 64.3% in 2019.

Night work

Working at night is labour which is engaged in from 22:00 until 06:00. The normal weekly working time for night work (art. 140 and 140а, LC) in a five-day working week is 35 hours. The normal working hours overnight in a five-day working week is up to seven hours. The employer is obliged to provide employees with free food, refreshments and other conditions facilitating the effectiveness of night work. Night work is prohibited for persons under 18 years of age, or for pregnant employees, for women in an advanced stage of IVF treatment, mothers with children up to six years of age and mothers who care for children with disabilities regardless of their age; it is also prohibited for employees who continue their education without interruption of production.

Shift work

When the nature of the manufacturing process requires it, the work in the company is organised into two or more shifts (Art. 141). The law describes as mixed shift work that includes day and night work. The mixed shift of four or more night hours is considered to be a night shift, and when it is less than four hours of night work, this shift is considered to be a day shift. The rotation of shifts in the enterprise is defined in the regulations for internal labour order. It is prohibited to assign another work tasks between two consecutive shifts. For enterprises with a continuous process of work the employee cannot suspend their work until the arrival of the replacing employee without the permission of the immediate supervisor. In these cases, the immediate superior shall take the necessary measures to find a substitute employee.

Weekend work

Weekend work is addressed by the Labour code (art.262, 264) as a kind of overtime work during day offs and official national holidays. The provisions define the payment of such work: the premium for overtime work during day offs is 75% and for national holidays 100%.

Rest and breaks

The aim of rest periods is to provide time for a short rest for the employee in the interval between working periods and is a concrete expression of labour protection. It is a constitutional right (art. 48 para. 5 of the Constitution), described in the Labour Code (art. 151–154) and in the Ordinance on working hours, rests and holidays (OWRH). Depending on the nature of work and work organisation, the working day may be divided into two or three parts (art.139, 4, LC). The lunch break is not included in the working time, while short breaks might be, as advised by the Occupational Medicine Services.

The law defines three types of rests:

  • Breaks during the working day (Art. 151, LC). The duration of the rests should be defined by the internal rules of the enterprise, but one of them should be for meal – not shorter than 30 minutes.
  • Rest between two consecutive working days (art. 152, LC). The minimum duration is 12 hours. It should also be ensured by the employer in the case of shift work – after each shift (art. 20, par. 3, OWRH). The legal requirement is that this rest should be continuous, secured at once and entirely. The breaks should be arranged so as to not violate the 12 hours continuous between days break.
  • Weekly rest (art. 153, LC) – between two consecutive working weeks. It includes two consecutive working days (one of them is Sunday as a rule). Weekly rest can be measured in hours, and the minimum duration is 48 hours. In case of a time averaging, enterprises with a continuous work process and with shift changes, the continuous weekly rest period should be not less than 24 hours.

Working time flexibility

The changes in the Labour Code from 2011 (New sections VIIIa and VІІІb, Fifth Chapter, Article 107b-p) regulate the working conditions for home-based and telework.

Flexible working time is still seemingly unpopular among entrepreneurs. In all the different sizes of company, flexibility is an option only for up to 20% of employees. Supporting the ECS result, National Statistics show that about 24,000 workers can determine their own working hours and they represent about 1% of the total employees in the country (NSI indicates that the data concerns respondents that have dependants, children or elderly relatives, and is for 2010). NSI data for 2019 shows that only about 3% of employed are able to arrange themselves their working time, while 66% of the self-employed are able to do so.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Bulgaria.

Health and safety at work

In the Republic of Bulgaria, public policy on safety and health at work comes under the Council of Ministers. On 22 December 2017 the Council of Ministers adopted the National Working Conditions Programme 2018–2020. National policy on safety and health at work is developed and implemented on the basis of trilateral cooperation at national, sector and regional level. The National Council on Working Conditions (NCWC) is the standing body responsible for coordination, consultation and cooperation for the development and implementation of occupational safety and health policy at national level.

The national strategy for health and safety at work is functioning on tripartite basis. Regional councils for tripartite cooperation on safe and healthy working conditions are created in all administrative regions. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy develops, coordinates and implements public policy on safety and health at work. The National Focal Point of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work is also situated in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The Ministry of Health manages and coordinates activities for the protection and promotion of health at work. The National Social Security Institute (NSSI) maintains a database on work related accidents and work-related illnesses. The General Labour Inspectorate Executive Agency (GLI) is the public body responsible for the overall supervision of compliance with labour law in order to ensure safety and health at work, as well as for the implementation of conditions of employment. GLI has about 495 labour inspectors controlling the health and safety and employment conditions in nearly 400,000 companies. There are working conditions committees in enterprises through which the dialogue between the employer and employees takes place. CLAs in general also include health and safety issues, according to the sector specifics.

Bulgaria was the first East European country to adopt, as early as 1997, a new and very comprehensive health and safety law. The Law for Health and Safety at Work (LHSW) regulates the rights and obligations of employers, employees, the state institutions and social partners for keeping workplaces healthy and safe. Article 25 of the law legally binds all employers to provide to their employees services by registered Occupational Health and Safety Services (OHSS). These can be established by the employer, by a group of employers or by an external legal entity. The National Assembly, admitting the significance and specific nature of OHSS activities and the need to improve the service quality, made amendments in May 2007 to the law making it mandatory for OHSS to undergo a special registration procedure. The register is kept by the health ministry and as of April 2020 there were 667 registered OHSS.

The number of cases of temporary disability associated with the main activity of an enterprise is significantly higher than reported by the National Social Insurance Institute, according to the National Working Conditions Survey. This is due to hospital protocols for mild traumatic disabilities which mean that some injuries are not declared as occupational accidents.

The national statistics show stability in the number of accidents and working days lost. The decreased number of accidents could be caused by the employment shrinkage, underreporting or improvement of working conditions, but there is no information to explain such trends.

NSSI issues annual reports with various breakdowns of accidents at work. Incident rates (per 1,000 employees) remain the same for the period 2016–2018.

The latest report with final data is from 2018. In that year the incidences of accidents at work (excluding commuting accidents) by sex were 69% for men and 31% for women.

The prevailing number of accidents is in the age groups 45–54 and 55–64. There are no analyses explaining this prevalence.

Accidents (fatal and non-fatal) in Bulgaria in 2018 prevailed in firm sizes of 50–249 employees and 500 employees and over (NSSI, 2021). The trend is different in the EU, with accidents most prevalent in firm sizes of 10–49 employees and 50–249 employees.

Accidents per 1,000 employees and % change from previous year

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

All accidents

1,802

1,690

1,764

1,794

Percent change on previous year

1.7

-6.2

4.4

1.7

Per 1,000 employees

0.7

0.6

0.6

0.7

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed] Accidents at work (NACE Rev. 2 activity A, C-N) non-fatal and Employees by sex, age and educational attainment level (1 000), total, from 15 to 64 years

Psychosocial risks

Article 8. (3) of the Labour Code concerning discrimination and Art. 12 of the Law on Health and Safety at Work concerning the use of physiological regimes of work and rest psychological pressure, monotonous work, forced posture, piece rate and shifts. are the main pieces of legislation including texts related to the psychosocial risks.

Around 50% of employees reported that their job requires working to tight deadlines at least a quarter of the time, and close to one third are working longer than 10 hours (EWCS).

According to the National Working Conditions Survey 2012, 27% of employees work more than 10 hours, 30% are working during weekends. In general, employees report having health problems: about one third have problems with their vision, back pain, headache and muscle pain and 40% complain of stress. More than 60% report a feeling of general fatigue. Between 20% and 26% report having sleep problems, anxiety and irritation.

For more detailed information on health and well-being at work, please consult:

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Bulgarian system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

Vocational guidance, training and vocational education is carried out for professions and specialties included in the list of professions for vocational education and training. The list is approved by the Minister of Education and Science after consultation with the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, and the relevant sectoral ministers and the representative organisations of employers and employees at national level. The National Agency for Vocational Education and Training is a government body that licenses activities in vocational education and training and coordinates institutions involved in vocational guidance, training and education. The representatives of social partners are members of the managing body of the NAVET and sit on the 17 expert commissions on professional orientations and the list of professions.

Ordinance No. 2 of 13 November 2014 about the terms and conditions for validation of professional knowledge, skills and competence acquired through non-formal education or learning has been in force since 1 January 2015. The institutions that have the right to carry out validation are: professional schools; professional high schools; art schools; sports schools; vocational colleges; vocational training centres. The control of validation is performed by the Regional Inspectorates on Education and NAVET.

Training

The professional training and qualification are defined in the Labour Code (Chapter 11). The employer is obliged to maintain and enhance the professional qualifications of employees so that they can perform their obligations under the employment relationship as their work requires it and develop their future career. Employees are obliged to participate in training organised or financed by the employer to maintain and increase their professional qualifications, improve their professional skills, and raise their qualification level in line with the nature of the work performed. The Labour Code provides opportunities for employers to sign an employment contract with someone still in school or training and then accept the student to complete or enhance their qualification while working for a period agreed by the parties which cannot be longer than six years.

The national consultative council for qualification of the labour force, created within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy as a tripartite body, aims to coordinate the development of national policies and strategies on training for acquiring professional qualification for the unemployed and employed. The council creates the conditions for dialogue between the representative organisations of employers and employees at national level as regards to lifelong learning and coordinates training needs for acquiring professional qualification of the unemployed group.

Actually, the level of paid time for training is not much dependant on the presence of employee representation. The general practice in Bulgaria is that it is provided in less than 23% of the establishments (EWCS).

Trade union representatives participate also in the Governing Council and expert commissions of the National Agency for Vocational education and training (NAVET), established and acting on tripartite principle. Dimitrov reports in the Annual review 2020 that social partners are launching a project for needs assessment of digital skills with view to the evolving digital technologies in different sectors of the economy.

Source: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2019 (ECS).

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For Bulgaria, the European Company Survey (ECS) 2019 shows that between 2010 and 2013, 50.4% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 42.4% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and 11.9% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

The National Working Conditions Survey 2012 reports recent trends of intensification of work with unfavourable health impacts. In the last three to four years, the operative programmes have provided resources for projects on working organisation, but there is no data about their outputs and effectiveness.

For more detailed information on work organisation, please consult:

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, disability, nationality, sex, race and religion. Principles of equality and non-discrimination are included in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. The main authority concerned with gender equality is the National Gender Equality Council with the Council of Ministers, established in 2004. In 2016 the Government adopted a Law on Equality between Women and Men, which is the main piece of legislation regulating the institutional mechanism for gender equality in Bulgaria. The same year the Government adopted also a National Gender Quality Strategy 2016-2020. The Labour Code prohibits all forms of discrimination, privileges or restrictions based on gender and introduces the principle of equal pay for women and men. Anti-discrimination provisions relating to gender are included in the Social Security Code, Law on Employment Promotion, Social Assistance Act, the Higher Education Act, the Law on Defence and Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria, Law on Protection against Discrimination and others. For example, the Law for Employment Promotion defines that when advertising vacancies, employers may not set preconditions on gender, age, nationality, ethnicity and health. According to the Labour Code (Article 8:3), when implementing labour rights and duties, employers may not use direct or indirect discrimination based on nationality, origin, gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, age, political and religious beliefs, membership of trade unions and other public organisations and movements, family and financial situation, the availability of mental or physical disabilities, or differences in the duration of contract or working time. The Social Insurance Code introduces the principles of mandatory and universal provision and equality of insured persons.

The state authority controlling anti-discrimination activities is the Commission on protection against discrimination.

Many CLAs include provisions on equality and non-discrimination at work as special measures related to working women: these include matters such as flexible working time during raising children; reduced working time for pregnant women and mothers with children up to three years of age; flexible working hours; free transportation; additional paid leave of two days for women with two or more children up to 18 years; additional paid leave of one day in each month for single mothers; opportunity for both parents at the same time of year to have annual leave in the same period; social benefits and payments during the leave, childbirth and child care, sickness pay, sick leave, at national and religious holidays, annual leave; additional financial compensation to the statutory benefit under the Social Security Code (Article 50:1) for employees on parental leave to care for a child up to the age of two, to bring their income up to the minimum wage for the industry or their usual basic salary; social programmes – including medical check-ups at the employer’s expense.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

According to the legislation (Article 243 of Labour Code) women and men have the right to equal pay for equal work, and this applies to all payments under the employment relationship. A special Law on Equality between Women and Men was adopted in 2016, which is the main piece of legislation regulating the institutional mechanism for gender equality in Bulgaria. According to the Commission for protection against discrimination, the high rate of feminisation in certain sectors of the economy, including hotels and restaurants, textiles and leather goods, education, health, medical care, financial intermediation, means that collective labour agreements include gender equality clauses related to wages and holidays.

The national mechanism for gender equality is coordinated by the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and the institution of the national Ombudsman. At legislative level, the National Assembly adopts issues of gender equality raised by its Commission on Human Rights and Complaints as a result of information provided by citizens. The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is an independent specialised state authority that oversees prevention and protection from discrimination and ensures equal opportunities. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (and its departments, ‘Policy for people with disabilities, equal opportunities and social benefits’ and the ‘Equal opportunities, non-discrimination and social benefits’) is part of the national mechanism for quality, responsible for the development and coordination of the state policy on gender equality in all areas. The executive agency ‘General Labour Inspectorate’ controls compliance with the provisions on protection of employed women and promoting employment. In the Report on Equality of Men and Women in Bulgaria 2019 GLI states that even during their audits wage setting is not transparent, therefore the risk of unequal pay remains.

Dimitrov (2021) reports in the Annual Review of Labour Relations and Social Dialogue that pay gap exists mainly because of concentration of female workers in low paid sectors. According to him there is no concrete evidence for a gender pay gap at the same workplace or at least there is no statistics available.

The National Action Plan for Promotion of Gender Equality, produced in 2018 does not seem to reflect any of the pay transparency instruments as per 2014 European Commission Recommendations, C(2014)1405 final in the planned measures.

The table below shows a somewhat fluctuating gender pay gap for the reviewed period, with 1.4 pp increase in 2019 compared to 2010 and 0.1 pp increase in the period 2019–2018.

Gender pay gap 2015–2019 (%)

Economic activity

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total

14.2

13.2

12.7

13.6

13.7

Mining and quarrying

18.0

15.6

15.4

12.2

13.9

Manufacturing

26.2

24.8

24.7

22.4

22.7

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

9.4

13.8

16.8

11.4

8.2

Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

20.0

19.9

18.4

7.8

5.6

Construction

-10.7

-13.0

-13.9

-14.5

-11.5

Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

15.7

14.4

13.6

12.6

12.8

Transportation and storage

4.2

3.4

2.9

10.1

11.0

Accommodation and food service activities

11.8

11.5

11.9

6.8

7.8

Information and communication

19.2

19.1

18.1

21.7

22.4

Financial and insurance activities

22.5

21.9

23.6

25.9

29.5

Real estate activities

10.8

17.0

17.9

-11.1

-7.5

Professional, scientific and technical activities

9.3

1.1

3.1

12.1

16.5

Administrative and support service activities

-26.8

-24.6

-24.3

-33.2

-29.8

Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

6.3

4.9

6.7

8.3

8.4

Education

15.5

11.3

8.2

12.0

9.3

Human health and social work activities

31.7

30.2

28.0

29.9

29.5

Arts, entertainment and recreation

7.9

8.4

6.1

23.5

24.7

Other service activities

6.6

1.9

4.7

-7.3

-2.3

Source: National Statistics Institute.

The Commission for protection against discrimination (CPAD, 2010) published analysis of results from a national representative survey on equality and discrimination, requested by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The conclusion about the gender pay gap is:

15% of those surveyed believe men earn more than women in identical positions; nearly half of the respondents (43.9%) think men and women are equally paid. Gender and raising a child in the family potentially leads to refusal of promotion, despite low percentage numbers which indicate low incidence. ‘Voluntary’ choice of women with little children to avoid senior posts, rather than discrimination, may be assumed. Nevertheless, a traditional conviction remains for gender division of management roles in certain public spheres, markedly in the police forces – 70.6% would have more confidence in males in executive positions. Less than half of the surveyed are in favour of males in other positions. (p.8)

The state authority that controls anti-discrimination activities is the Commission for protection against discrimination. The Law on Protection against Discrimination (Article 14:1) defines that an employer shall ensure equal pay for equal work. The Commission on protection against discrimination monitors the implementation and observance of laws governing equal treatment.

The latest report by MLSP on gender equality concludes that despite the significant role of legislation, in practice there is still inequality between men and women in some aspects of their participation in the economic, social and political lives, including due to existing attitudes and stereotypes. To some extent this is due to missing integrated national system for information, monitoring and assessment of gender equality, coordinating systematic collection, storage and analysis of data by gender. The establishment of such system has been proposed in 2017, but it has not been implemented yet. For this reason, the most recent (November 2017) Report on the implementation of Commission Recommendation (C(2014)1405) on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through transparency lacks data from Bulgaria.

The trade unions have launched different initiatives to address the issue of equal pay. For instance, the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria has popularised the issue during the International Day for equal pay. CITUB’s information portal for collective bargaining publishes good practices in the drawing up of CLA provisions that focus on work-life balance. Social partners regularly participate in various conferences and seminars and in round tables to discuss equality between women and men. In 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy launched the Gender Project for Bulgaria, with a committee tasked with working with women, children, young people and families at CITUB. The Trade Union of Bulgarian Teachers designated November 2016 as the ‘Month for equal pay’ and invited the general public to its Information Day for equal pay.

Through its Committee on Gender Equality, Family, Women and Children, in 2017 representatives of CITUB actively participated in various initiatives supporting the equality of women and men, overcoming stereotypes, discrimination, aggression and violence against women and girls and actions against gender-based violence.

An article published on 13 April 2021 on the consultation procedure between MLSP, employers and trade unions on the Equal Pay Directive and pay transparency mentions that the CITUB trade union insists companies with more than 5% gender pay gap should not participate in public procurement . MLSP is considering legal amendments to accommodate the Directive provisions.

Quota regulations

The Law for civil servants (art. 9a) sets a quota for working places for people with disabilities (Article 9a); at least of 2% of the total number of administrative staff in public service establishments that employ more than 50 people must be offered to people with disabilities. According to the Labour Code, establishments with more than 50 employees shall define a quota from 4 to 10% depending on the economic activity for people with certain percentage of incapacity to work. This quota is regulated by a joint Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Minister of Health (MLSP, 2012).

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