Social Analysts: Young Experts Are Still Fleeing Bulgaria
Experts are adamant that the pandemic has lowered emigration rate in 2020. However, this does not solve Bulgaria's long-standing demographic problems, including the outflow of specialists from key sectors of economy. According to data of the European Commission in 2019, the trend for the return of migrant workers has continued and Bulgaria is among the top countries in this regard. However, it mainly applies to low-skilled workers.
According to a study by the Open Society Foundation, only about 5 percent of doctors in Bulgaria are under the age of 30. Nicole and Victor are among the young medical professionals who have chosen to leave. "I was motivated by better conditions and organization of work," says Nicole, who is doing internship in Vienna.
"In Bulgaria the salaries are so low that you have to work in at least two places and pay for all the courses yourself." While studying she worked as a nurse in a big hospital in Sofia. "As a student, I received a little over BGN 200. The absurdity is that I had to spend money on soap and toilet paper in the ward."
She says that in Austria the situation is completely different. "Students here have work shifts in hospitals for which they are paid. While with us the practice was much less for students." She admits having difficulties in the beginning but hopes to catch up soon. "My colleagues here have done a number of things while studying that I see for the first time now."
And while there is a lot of work and the social contacts initially are far more limited than in Bulgaria, she doesn‘t regret her decision to leave. "In Bulgaria, few people are interested in new studies and they find it difficult to get to practice. In Austria, especially with regard to coronavirus, I have seen how new publications are prepared and new treatment methods are constantly being discussed."
Would she go back to Bulgaria? „ Well, no one wants to be an immigrant and that's definitely not the easier choice. So, if I see a trend to improvement, I'll be back. At this point, no."
Victor, like Nicole, left shortly after graduating. "The profession I have chosen not everywhere in Bulgaria is practiced at the necessary modern level. I didn't want to make compromises with myself and my patients," he explains. He admits that the first steps in Germany are not easy. "I'm still struggling – the difficulties are linguistic, professional, social, he says, but I'm pleased that I've decided to start building a career abroad."
For the moment, Victor is not thinking about going back to Bulgaria and have a career there: "I am not optimistic that the necessary reforms will take place soon. Healthcare system in Bulgaria needs major structural changes to make it possible for colleagues to practice their profession at a modern level and under the adequate working conditions, and patients – both in large university hospitals and, for example, in municipal clinics – to be satisfied with the care they receive."
The personnel cuts and freezing of new vacancies due to the pandemic, as well as the highly competitive environment, are among the reasons why some Bulgarians decide to return to their homeland. "My professional development, the extraordinary economic situation as a result of the pandemic, and personal reasons were the factors that led me to return to Bulgaria", says Philip, who came home a few months ago but has already found a job.
He says that in Western Europe, where he has studied and worked so far, the pandemic has seriously affected the demand for staff, especially foreigners and those with no experience. "My European education has definitely opened more doors to me in Bulgaria than abroad", he admits, stressing that here the hiring process is at a lower level, which may prove to be a benefit.
"I don't have to jump through burning hoops to get a proper job," says Philip. Especially in Sofia, a number of companies in the field of business innovation and in the startup environment are looking for young experts fluent in several foreign languages.
Gaining experience abroad and proficiency in foreign languages proved to be a trump card for young professionals who decided to work in Bulgaria. Ivanina went to Germany as a child, but returned to her homeland a year ago. "I have to honestly admit that my choice was not dictated by nostalgia or idealism," she says. "My education, which focuses on the research of South-East Europe, has given me better opportunities to develop a career here."
She speaks Bulgarian and German at the level of "mother tongue", and speaks English as well. Ivanina does not like to compare Bulgaria and Germany and does not think that in most cases there is a basis for such a comparison.
"Since I have been in Bulgaria, many things have happened to me that, of course, would not be possible in Germany. Some of them make me laugh, some don't. It is no secret that many things in Bulgaria do not work as they should, but I still believe that it is up to all of us to change what does not work properly. We can't always justify ourselves saying that "the system doesn‘t work anyway," she is adamant.
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