Half of the households have per capita incomes below the minimum salary
Author: Slavena Dimitrova
3.4 million Bulgarians, or 50% of the Bulgarian population, live at or below the poverty line, according to Eurostat data cited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. The national poverty threshold as at the end of 2014 was BGN 286 per month. As per Eurostat, 13% of people living in Bulgaria fall below that income level. The rest are at risk of poverty—people who are considered endangered by poverty are those living on less than 60% of the country’s average per capita income.
According to latest data from Eurostat, EU’s Statistical Office, Bulgaria holds a permanent first place for this indicator—about 48–49% of the people in our country face a risk of falling into destitution. In comparison, the EU Member State with the second highest percentage of such population is Romania, where a little more than 40% of the citizens are in the same situation. More than half of the children in Bulgaria—51.5%—are at risk of poverty; among retired citizens this figure is even higher—about 58%. As expected, Bulgaria has some of the worst data as regards these two groups as well.
Further, there are more than 192, 000 people between 15 and 64 years of age who feel discouraged—they are unemployed, but don’t seek jobs, because they do not believe they could find one. Even though the level of unemployment has been decreasing over the past months, it still remains high—approximately 11%. At the same time, there are nearly 210, 000 Bulgarians excluded from the labor market because of their health status.
Recently the Bulgarian Institute for Market Economics (IME) reported that one of ten people in the country lived in extreme poverty in 2013. In 2008–2009, about 8.5% of the population lived in dire conditions.
Based on national statistical data, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB/CITUB) have found that more than half of all Bulgarian households (53%, or about 3.8 million citizens) are struggling with a total per capita income of not more than BGN 360, which is the minimum salary in Bulgaria. On the other hand, statistics show that normal subsistence costs for one person in Bulgaria amount to BGN 563. Further, 26% of households have incomes between the minimum salary and the said subsistence threshold. That sums up in 79% of families getting by on means less than the ones necessary for the subsistence of their members. Bulgarians who have a normal income, i.e. more than the subsistence level, are approximately 20%, or 1, 470, 000. Their number has increased by 50, 000 in a year. The CITUB have said there are more and more regions with wages less than the average in Bulgaria, which deepens even further the gap between rich and poor areas. Thus, in 2014 eight regions had a median salary of 75% the country’s average. In 2008 such were the incomes in six regions.
A FLICKER OF HOPE
According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy the money under the EU Human Resources Development Operational Program can be an effective tool in dealing with this difficult situation. 60% of these funds for the period until 2020, i.e. more than BGN 2.1 billion, have been earmarked for job creation and social inclusion. According to Bulgarian Economic and Social Council’s Chair, Prof. Lalko Dulevski, Bulgaria has 600–700 entities which fall into the category of social enterprises. Social companies ensure employment mainly for vulnerable social groups, among which persons with disabilities. In comparison, there are nearly 2 million such enterprises in Europe, which give jobs to 14 million European citizens. Their number has been on the rise despite the economic crisis.