Thank God For Bulgarians Abroad
Georgi Papakochev, Deutsche Welle Bulgaria
The Bulgarian seasonal workers and the permanently living abroad emigrants have long since become “sponsors of the fatherland”. Without their money transfers, thousands of people in Bulgaria could not survive.
The high unemployment in certain Bulgarian regions and the higher wages abroad, force thousands of Bulgarians to leave the country each spring. They go to Germany, Greece, Italy or some other EU country to work for a few months at construction sites, in the tourist sector or agriculture. The money they manage to save ensures the sustenance of their families in Bulgaria.
The work abroad becomes increasingly important for the poorest EU member. According to estimates of the economist Emil Hursev, each year the Bulgarians working abroad transfer to the country between EUR 800 000 and 1B. Roughly the same sum is brought into the country in cash by the workers themselves, whenever they briefly return to Bulgaria. “Those EUR 2 B, which are 5% of the entire GDP of Bulgaria are pure income – ready for spending money, which pays for various goods and services,” Hursev said. He also points out that those working abroad bring into national economy not only money to sustain their families and savings, but also to invest.
In an interview for DW, prof. Iskra Hristova-Balkanska of the Institute for Economic Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAN), said that the money transfers of the more qualified Bulgarians are considerably higher than those of the ordinary workers. “The more qualified people with good jobs prefer to invest in their current country – for the education of their children, personal qualifications, own home,” she said. But she confirms that the emigrants and the temporary workers are the main source of money transfers into Bulgaria.
There is this highly qualified group among the temporary workers – the medics who work abroad only for several days. Most often this happens in the weekends when they replace colleagues on vacation or take additional shifts in foreign clinics and then return to Bulgaria with considerable sums. According to Hristova-Balkanska some doctors have no problem to take a month of leave and go abroad to work under contract in some clinic.
There are also considerable sums coming into Bulgaria from illegal business. Most of it is from prostitutes. According to police and prosecution data, last year in Europe as prostitutes worked 20 000 women with Bulgarian passports. Between 15 and 20% of their earnings flow into the country. But it is another story that 90% of their earnings fall into the hands of their pimps.
Katya Ribarova of the Institute For Trade Union Studies at the KNSB trade union, divides the Bulgarian workers abroad into several groups: those with labor contract, those with temporary employment via a placement agency and those who go abroad to look for a job at their own risk.
“Most often there are discrepancies between what was agreed beforehand and the reality,” she said. “The payment of the foreign workers is usually lower than the payment of the locals. There is the danger of grey economy, especially in construction and agriculture. It is true that there is better regulation and protection, but there is always the risk.”
Meanwhile, not a long while ago, Bulgaria's Investment Agency spent over E 70 000 from the EU Competitiveness program for a series of meetings with Bulgarian emigrants and temporary workers in 11 European countries. The goal was to convince them to return to Bulgaria. Agency representatives said that at each of the 13 meetings showed up no more than 60 people. Results are yet to be seen.
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