Decline in workers’ satisfaction with rates of pay

Satisfaction with rates of pay in Bulgaria is declining. In the second wave of the Work Climate Index Survey published in 2013, just 17% of workers reported that they had been given a pay increase, while about a third said that their wages had fallen. Only 30% said they felt they were paid fairly. When compared with the findings of the first wave of the survey in 2010, satisfaction with the regularity of wage payment, social benefits and how wages were paid had all fallen.

Introduction

Overall satisfaction with rates of pay in Bulgaria is declining, according to the second wave of the Work Climate Index Survey published in 2013.

The index asks a range of people in a range of professions how much they receive in pay, and how much they feel they ought to receive.

Only 30.4% of respondents felt they were paid fairly for their work, while more than 63% of respondents considered their wages unfair to a lesser or greater extent. Figures showed just 17% of workers said they had received a pay increase, while about a third said that their wages had fallen.

While the field of the survey may be limited, researchers believe it gives an interesting, nuanced picture of what the situation ‘is and should be’. The level of the monthly wage employees feel they should receive is based on existing experience and the received real wages of different professions. Therefore, as is shown in the table, the professions of judges, physicians and university professors both receive and consider that they should receive the highest wages.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are industrial workers (skilled and unskilled), sales workers, librarians and nurses who receive the lowest wages.

Average wages and workers’ perceptions of how much they should be paid, 2012
Professions Actual monthly pay How much workers feel they should be paid Evaluation index

BGN

Basis

BGN

Basis

%

1

Unskilled industrial worker

365

N=1,895

579

N=1,959

158.6

2

Skilled industrial worker

558

N=1,885

853

N=1,966

152.9

3

Engineer in industrial enterprise

813

N=1,678

1,267

N=1,858

155.8

4

Accountant in industrial enterprise

688

N=1,689

1,011

N=1,790

146.9

5

Skilled construction worker

763

N=1,762

1,093

N=1,848

143.2

6

Public transport driver

605

N=1,758

909

N=1,836

150.2

7

Miner

989

N=1,434

1535

N=1,608

155.2

8

Sales worker (supermarket)

425

N=1,940

651

N=1,970

153.2

9

Municipal administration employee

520

N=1,727

716

N=1,799

137.7

10

Librarian

388

N=1,552

606

N=1,661

156.2

11

Secondary school teacher

576

N=1,943

909

N=2,019

157.8

12

University professor

1020

N=1,290

1,487

N=1,474

145.8

13

Specialist physician (hospital)

1082

N=1,643

1,800

N=1,820

166.4

14

Hospital nurse

488

N=1,807

890

N=1,922

182.4

15

Police officer

772

N=1,615

1,084

N=1,727

140.4

16

Judge

1,480

N=1,169

1,676

N=1,352

113.2

Note: N = number of respondents; exchange rate 1 BGN = 0.51129 EUR

The degree of undervaluation – calculated by subtracting 100 from the evaluation index value – indicates hospital nurses believe their undervaluation is highest (82.4 points), followed by that of the specialist physicians (66.4), unskilled industrial workers (58.6), secondary school teachers (57.8) and librarians (56.2). The average underestimation value for all 16 professions is 51 points.

This is an unusual measure of the gap between the real and the desired situation in the sphere of labour remuneration. The result is not just a comparison with international standards, but takes into consideration the real conditions and the possibilities of increasing pay across the country.

The undervaluation of the work of unskilled industrial workers is significant. Unskilled workers serve as a reference point for public attitudes about the level of the minimum wage. The undervaluation of 58.6 points suggests that minimum income in Bulgaria lags behind what might be expected.

Least undervalued is the work of judges (13.2 points), municipal administration employees (37.7), police officers (40.4), and skilled construction workers (43.2).

Reasons for low wages

Respondents point to a number of reasons for the low cost of labour in Bulgaria compared to the rest of Europe.

  • Revenues are not fairly distributed between employees and employers (49.5% of the respondents).
  • Labour productivity in Bulgaria is low (42.6%).
  • Intentionally, low labour costs are used as a competitive factor (41.6%).
  • Subjective factors such as ‘poor discipline’ and ‘low qualification and skills of the labour force’ are assessed as even less significant (respectively 17.7 and 15.8%).
  • Just 5.3% of the respondents considered that ‘labour remuneration in Bulgaria is not low’.

Commentary

The most important conclusion of this public rating clearly indicates the direction in which wage policy should be orientated, regardless of whether this is done through fiscal and budgetary instruments or through other indirect measures to stimulate the labour market.

Lyuben Tomev, ISTUR

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