Foreign Workers Surge: Bulgaria Sees Influx from 59 Non-EU Countries

Society | March 11, 2024, Monday // 17:00
Bulgaria: Foreign Workers Surge: Bulgaria Sees Influx from 59 Non-EU Countries @Pixabay

Amidst notable shifts in Bulgaria's labor landscape, citizens from 59 countries outside the European Union (EU) have found employment opportunities in the nation over the past year, signaling a significant change in its workforce dynamics. Atanaska Todorova, chief expert in labor market, migration, and mobility at the National Security Service, revealed this influx, emphasizing its impact on various sectors, particularly hospitality and construction.

The rise in foreign workers, predominantly engaged in seasonal roles within the hotel and restaurant industries, reflects a growing reliance on international labor to meet staffing needs. Notably, every third employee in hotels and restaurants now hails from a non-EU country, a trend expected to continue surging, according to Richard Alibegov, head of the Bulgarian Restaurant Association.

Among the key source countries for foreign workers are neighboring nations like Turkey, North Macedonia, and Serbia, alongside former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Moldova. Turkish chefs, in particular, are highly sought after for their culinary expertise, contributing to the vibrant restaurant scene in Bulgaria.

While hopes were high for Ukrainian refugees to alleviate the labor shortage, their participation in the workforce has not materialized as expected. Instead, Bulgaria has turned to countries like India, Bangladesh, and Nepal to fill vacancies, particularly in hospitality and hygiene roles.

Negotiations are underway with workers from these regions to staff hotels, restaurants, and resorts, reflecting the industry's ongoing struggle to recruit and retain local talent. The personnel crisis has prompted employers to offer competitive wages, with minimum salaries starting at BGN 1,500 for maids and kitchen staff, rising to BGN 3,000 for receptionists.

However, the influx of foreign labor has sparked debates regarding wage differentials and labor standards. While some argue that lower wages for workers from non-EU countries incentivize employers to hire internationally, others attribute the labor shortage to demographic factors and the emigration of Bulgarian workers seeking higher salaries abroad.

Despite these debates, hoteliers and restaurateurs emphasize the importance of foreign workers in sustaining Bulgaria's tourism sector, particularly in popular destinations like Sunny Beach. With nearly 1 million tourists flocking to the area during peak season, the demand for service personnel is immense, prompting employers to offer competitive salaries and accommodation packages to attract and retain talent.

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Tags: Bulgaria, foreign, labor, industry

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