Ethnic minorities’ jobs hardest hit by crisis

The economic crisis has had a significantly different impact on people in Bulgaria depending on their age, gender and ethnicity. The Crisis Monitoring Survey, carried out in 2010 by the Open Society Institute and the World Bank, reveals that the crisis affects Turks, Roma and native Bulgarians differently, depending on what jobs they do.. The decisive factors, in terms of the risks among the three ethnic groups, are employment status, legal status and their employment sector.

About the survey

In February and September 2010 the sociological team of the Sofia-based Open Society Institute (OSI) and experts from the World Bank carried out a Bulgaria Crisis Monitoring Survey to study the economic situation of Bulgarian households in times of crisis. The results (in Bulgarian) have been published in the e-journal Politiki.

The survey follows a nationally representative sample of 2,400 households with 6,600 individuals. It has modules similar to those of the Bulgaria Multi-topic Household Survey (June 2007), allowing for comparison and highlighting changes which have taken place during the crisis.

Main findings

Impact of crisis on employment

The main survey findings show that for Bulgarians and ethnic minorities the global financial crisis hides different risks depending on what job they do.

Ethnic minorities turned out to be the most badly affected by the drop in employment rate. Figures for the period 2007–2010 show:

  • a drop from 66%–49.1% for the Turk community;
  • a drop from 50.8%–28.6% for the Roma.

Considering the dependency of employment on basic demographic characteristics, the most striking observation is an employment gender gap which is almost exclusively present among the Roma, with the share of employed men nearly twice as high as employed women. Nevertheless, a similar inequality can be observed in all three ethnic groups. In 2010, due to the crisis, there was a considerable drop in the male employment in all groups and a dramatic drop for Turkish (60% –42%) and Roma women (34%–22%) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Employment trends by gender and ethnic group (population aged 15–65 years) in 2007 and 2010

Source: Bulgaria Multi-topic Household Survey, June 2007 – BBSS Gallup/ World Bank/ Open Society Institute – Sofia, Bulgaria Crisis Monitoring Survey, OSI, World Bank, 2010

Young people the main victims of the crisis

It is particularly alarming that all young people were severely affected by the crisis, with young people from ethnic minorities most affected. Since 2007 the employment of young Turkish people has decreased by 29%, with that of the Roma dropping 25%. This compares with 16% for young Bulgarians (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Changes in employment by age and ethnic group, 2007–2010

Source: OSI surveys 2007, 2010, authors’ own calculations

Indicators of vulnerability of ethnic minorities’ employment

Employment in sectors hardest hit by the crisis

The three ethnic groups differ significantly in terms of their employment sectors. Bulgarians are relatively evenly dispersed across all sectors, with retail trade and restaurants taking the leading position (16.6%). Turks and Roma are concentrated in some sectors with more precarious work and low educational requirements, such as

  • agriculture (employing 37.6% of Turkish and 20.1 % of Roma people)
  • construction (16.4% of Turks and 22.4% of Roma).

For Roma, the third important sector is communal services (11.1%).

Comparisons for 2007 and 2010 in the table below show that sectors such as construction and especially agriculture, have been hardest hit by the crisis.

Employment rate of the three major ethnic groups by sector, 2007 and 2010 (%)
Sectors Bulgarians Turks Roma
2007 2010 2007 2010 2007 2010
Healthcare 6.8 7.6 2.0 5.9 1.8 3.3
Agriculture 10.0 5.2 37.6 28.2 20.1 10.0
Education and science 7.7 8.6 2.2 2.3 2.5 3.3
Public administration 6.2 7.1 4.1 2.7 2.5 2.2
Construction 10.2 8.1 16.4 15.0 22.4 20.0
Retail trade and restaurants 16.6 12.0 8.3 7.3 8.7 11.1
Finances 4.7 3.1 0.3 5.0 0.2 0.0
Communal services 2.3 - 4.2 - 11.1 -
Heavy industry and metallurgy 5.3 - 4.3 - 5.7 -
Transport and communications 7.6 - 3.9 - 2.5 -
Services 9.0 - 3.2 - 6.5 -
Food industry 3.0 - 2.3 - 4.4 -
Other 10.6 - 11.4 - 11.8 -

Source: OSI surveys 2007, 2010

Type of contract

The precariousness of employment for ethnic minorities is clear when the legality of employment of the different ethnic groups is compared. Some 23.5% of Roma workers do not have any type of contract of employment (Figure 3). In other words, they have been forced to work in the shadow economy, without guaranteed social security and may easily be laid off. There are much fewer examples of this problem in the other two communities.

Figure 3: Type of contract of employed by ethnic affiliation, 2007

Source: OSI survey, 2007

Employment status

This insecure status made the minorities more prone to being affected by the crisis. Thus, 6.7% of the employed Roma are self-employed and 11.8% are unpaid family workers, while the Turkish community is characterised by a larger share of self-employed (9.2%) and of unpaid family workers (24.7%) (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Employment Status ethnic affiliation, 2007


Source: OSI survey, 2007


A series of studies from the Open Society Institute show that the impact of the crisis has further widened the gap between the most vulnerable social groups, (including ethnic minorities, unemployed, and those employed in precarious work) and workers in regular employment, which could result in a sustained alienation from the labour market and further complicates the social and economic status of the minorities in Bulgaria.


Pamporov, A., ‘Effects of the crisis on the employment of Bulgarians, Turks and the Roma’, Politiki, Issue 7, 2010, available online at:

Pamporov, A., ‘The employment iceberg. Employment trends for Bulgarians, Turks and the Roma in September 2010’, Politiki, Issue 12, 2010, available online at:

Pamporov, A., ‘Drawing a picture of employment in time of crisis’, Politiki, Issue 6, 2009, available online at:

Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

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