The youth unemployment rate (15-24 years) for Bulgaria continues to be lower than the average for EU. According to Eurostat data, the average for the nine months of 2020 the value of the indicator for Bulgaria is 14.2% compared to 16.7% on average for the EU-27.

Also, the level of young people not in employment, education and training aged 15-24 (NEET's) in Bulgaria has been steadily declining from 2014 to 2019, but remains higher than the EU average. According to the latest Eurostat data, in the first nine months of 2020 the level of young people who are not in employment, education and training in Bulgaria is increasing on an annual basis by 1.2 percentage points and reached 14.6% compared to the EU-27 average of 11.0%.

In support of youth employment on July 1, 2020, the EC published a package of measures "Support for youth employment: a bridge to jobs for the next generation." It includes: a proposal for a Council Recommendation "A bridge to jobs - strengthening the Youth Guarantee"; Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training; A new incentive for apprenticeships; additional measures to support youth employment. The proposal for a Council Recommendation "A bridge to jobs - strengthening the Youth Guarantee" and repealing the Council Recommendation of 22 April 2013 on the establishment of the Youth Guarantee aims to renew the policy framework to better support fitness for youth employment in order to avoid another crisis of youth unemployment.

However, what are the specific measures to promote youth employment in Bulgaria?

One of them is the measure "Youth employment", providing unemployed young people up to 29 years of age opportunities to acquire practical skills and experience through internships or training while working with a mentor, and the measure "Training and employment for young people", including training for acquisition of professional qualification and / or key competencies against vouchers and subsequent employment. Priority is given to young people with primary and lower education, the long-term unemployed, young people with permanent disabilities, activated young people who have registered as unemployed in the directorates of the Labor Office.

The package of measures also includes training of employees from the labor offices in order to profile for work with young people aged 16 to 21 using residential services; providing opportunities for vocational guidance, qualification and employment of young people; development and approbation of activities on the principle of "Social Enterprise" (jobs specially created for these young people, for example: cafe, restaurant, studio, etc., places where to acquire work habits in practice, in a form of support for the development of work habits and social skills).

What are the benefits for young people and employers of specific measures?

The Youth Employment Scheme enables employers to hire young people in two main areas:

  • Internship: The employer or an employee asked by his boss acts as a mentor to the youth employed under the scheme. The aim is the maximum acquisition of practical skills in the acquired profession or specialty within the internship.
  • On-the-job training: During the work process, the employee is trained in a certain profession or specialty, and for this purpose the employer or an employee appointed by him is expected to act as a mentor to the young people involved in on-the-job training.

Employers who provide internships under the scheme will be reimbursed for:

  • remuneration in the amount of the minimum insurance income for the respective main economic activity and qualification group of professions for the respective year to which the opened internship refers;
  • health and social insurance of young people for a period of 6 months.

If after the end of the internship the young person stays at work and concludes an indefinite employment contract, the employer will be additionally covered the costs of social and health insurance for a period of another 6 months. The costs of the mentor's remuneration during the internship will not be covered by the scheme and will remain at the expense of the employer.

Employers who provide training under the scheme will be reimbursed for:

  • remuneration of the employee in the amount of 90% of the minimum wage for the country;
  • the costs of health and social insurance for a period of 6 months.

The costs of remuneration of the mentor appointed by the employer will be covered by the program (1/2 of the minimum wage for the country)

The financing of the activities under the scheme for Sofia-city and the country is from two different sources - the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative - youth employment procedure.

Another measure of the Employment Agency at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is the Career Start Program, which aims to provide opportunities for unemployed young people who have completed higher education to facilitate the transition between education and employment. . Their starting salary is BGN 800, and a mentor also receives funds, and the term for appointment is 1 year.

There are also many incentives to increase the competencies of young people and acquire additional professional qualifications. For example:

  • Training for acquiring the first degree of professional qualification (with a duration of not less than 300 study hours) - BGN 660 maximum amount for unemployed persons;
  • Training for acquiring the second degree of professional qualification (with a duration of not less than 660 study hours) - BGN 1,320 maximum amount for unemployed persons;
  • Training for acquiring the third degree of professional qualification (with a duration of not less than 960 study hours) - BGN 1,980 maximum amount for unemployed persons;
  • Training for acquiring qualification in part of the profession - BGN 660 maximum amount at 300 school hours, in proportion to the school hours, for unemployed persons.

The territorial mobility of the unemployed is also encouraged by reimbursing part of the transport costs by the employer.

Until 2023 There is also a project "Ready for work", aimed again at young people under 29 years of age who are neither in education or training, nor in employment and are not registered as unemployed in the Directorates "Labor Office", to improve opportunities for finding a job and realisation on the labor market Its main goal is to identify, motivate and guide at least 10,500 young people aged 15 to 24 and 7,000 between 25 and 29.

Are the incentives to deal with youth unemployment in Bulgaria sufficient?

According to the study and referring to the opinion of a number of experts, we can say that measures to promote youth employment in Bulgaria have several major disadvantages. In the first place, this is youth entrepreneurship. According to data from the MLSP, funds for starting an independent economic activity by unemployed persons who have registered a micro enterprise under the Small and Medium Enterprises Act (according to a business project approved by the territorial division of the Employment Agency) (Art. 30a, para 1, item 16). ) are financed up to BGN 4,000 according to the approved business project. But this is the end of the concrete measures. There are a number of incentives for young people under 29 to develop European projects and use European funds, but there are no incentives at national level.

During the National Youth Conference "Creating Opportunities for Youth", held in February 2020 by the National Youth Forum, it became clear that the operational program "Growing Regions" is used as the main financial instrument for targeted promotion of regional development.

According to the participants in the conference, it is essential to improve the educational environment in small settlements and implement educational policy at the local level. They believe that proposals to improve current policies should come from the bottom up by the local community, which can best identify current challenges.

Among their proposals are organizing meetings at the local level with young people and representatives of youth organizations, creating opportunities for youth organizations from small settlements to unite and apply for projects together with other civil society organizations and validation of skills and competencies acquired in informal environment in order to expand career opportunities and recognize the capacity of young people. The main priority in the future should be the effective payment on the basis of qualifications, which will allow for flexibility of working hours and individual evaluation of good performance. Young people believe that it will eliminate gender discrimination for identical positions.

The participants in the discussion are also categorical that the dual training and the direct partnership between the business and specific educational institutions should be encouraged - classes, profiles with opportunities for receiving scholarships or part-time employment.

Another expert report entitled "Youth Policy in Bulgaria: Challenges and Prospects" concludes from an analysis of the National Youth Strategy (2010 - 2020) that young people are perceived mostly as audiences and recipients of certain services. They are not involved in policy-making. Information on consultations and advice involving young people is limited (with the exception of youth parliaments organized in some settlements).

The document also says that with regard to social exclusion, for example, it is noteworthy that for the entire study period (2017, 2018, 2019) the main measure to address the problem is financial assistance. The distribution of funds is a necessary measure to prevent the exclusion of certain groups and encourage them to be an active part of society, but it is not enough and has little effect in the long run on preventing social exclusion, especially if the nature of the financial measure is compensatory and not stimulating development and participation, the report said.

An important conclusion is that the formulation, implementation and reporting of the results of youth policies is dominated by the approach that treats young people as an object of care and not as a partner in joint activities. Young people are perceived as more at risk or vulnerable and need to be protected from youth policies. Such policies target specific segments of the youth group with very limited coordination between sectors.

A prosperous society is made up of active and enterprising citizens who live in harmony with themselves, are able to seek and take on challenges and enjoy life. The new stage in the development of youth policies must set more ambitious goals for transforming youth from an object of care into a subject of their development policies. Differentiation, decentralization, interaction and promotion of effective leadership are the possible ways to develop a national youth policy of a fundamentally new quality and scale.


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