Bulgaria

   

Social Policies

#40
Key Findings
With significant gaps in its safety net, Bulgaria falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Education quality is comparatively low, with significant geographical variance. A set of modest but promising educational reforms is underway. Income inequality is high and rising. Social policies have difficulties integrating minorities, foreigners and people with sub-secondary-level education.

The health care system is inclusive, but service quality is not high. Robust economic growth has improved the system’s financial stability. Public provision of child care is limited, though family support networks and parental-leave laws are strong.

The pension system does not effectively reduce poverty among the elderly, and is fiscally unsustainable. There is no comprehensive integration policy. Conditions for refugees have been very poor, with nationalistic attitudes rising, and a xenophobic party now in the governing coalition. Organized crime is a serious problem, and violence against migrants has increased.

Education

#34

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
4
The Bulgarian education system is dominated by government-owned institutions and government-set standards at all levels. Public spending on education is 3.6% of GDP and is projected to increase to 3.8% by 2020.

The quality of education in Bulgaria falls short of the needs of a modern competitive economy. While the mean PISA score for mathematics, reading and science improved from 416 points in 2006 to 440 in 2015, it is still relatively poor. Available labor-market data indicate that there are serious skill mismatches, with secondary and tertiary schools producing a surplus in some activity areas and deficits in others, such as engineering and IT. In the QS World University Ranking, only one Bulgarian university, Sofia University, ranked among the world’s top universities. However, the university’s ranking has slightly worsened and it no longer ranks among the best 700 universities covered.

The level of equity in the Bulgarian education system is average to low. Many children in upper-income families are able to attend private schools, which seem to perform better than public schools. According to a 2016 ranking of Bulgarian middle schools, only 14 of the top-50 schools are regular public schools, the rest being either private schools, or math-focused middle schools. In addition, the school dropout rate among minorities, especially Roma, is significantly higher than the average, meaning that schools do not provide the same opportunities for all ethnic groups. Finally, geographic variance in the quality of the education provided by secondary and tertiary schools is very large, with schools in smaller towns and villages and in less populated areas unable to attract high-quality teaching staff.

In fall 2017, the Ministry of Education presented reforms to improve the measurement of the quality of education, optimize the school network, and strengthen the link between secondary education and the labor market by developing a dual education program (general education combined with vocational training). These proposals have been widely welcomed as modest steps in the right direction.

Citations:
European Commission (2017): Education and Training Monitor Bulgaria. Luxembourg: European Union (https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/monitor2017-bg_en.pdf.

Ilieva-Trichkova, P., P. Boyadjieva (2014). Dynamics of inequalities in access to higher education: Bulgaria in a comparative perspective, in: European Journal of Higher Education 4(2), 97-117.

Middle-school ranking: http://www.danybon.com/obrazovanie/klasacia-na-uchilistata-v-bg-maturi-7-class-2016/

World University Ranking: http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2018

Social Inclusion

#40

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
4
Compared to other EU countries, Bulgaria achieves poor results in preventing exclusion and decoupling from society. Bulgaria also suffers from a relatively high (compared to other EU countries) and rising level of inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient. There is a general level of dissatisfaction with the state of society, which can be explained by the loss of subjective security during the transition to a market economy, the unfavorable international comparison in terms of material deprivation and poverty rates, and the failure of the judicial system to provide a sense of justice for citizens.

In general, Bulgaria’s social policy is unsuccessful in including and integrating people with lower-than-secondary education, minorities and foreigners (mainly refugees or immigrants). The lack of regional differentiation in the level of the minimum wage and in social security thresholds, the prevailing limits to free business entry and exit, and poor judicial performance in the business sphere prevent people in the lowest quintile and in disadvantaged groups from being employed or starting a business. Many other regulations, administrative burdens and red tape create severe competitive disadvantages for marginalized people that undermine their economic activity. Additionally, there are no policies sufficiently tailored to the integration needs of specific groups such as minorities and immigrants. Another contributing factor to weak social inclusion is the fact that some political actors have a vested interest in keeping certain voter cohorts in a position of dependence, while other political actors bank on the rhetoric of exclusion and marginalization of certain minority groups.

Health

#39

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
4
The Bulgarian health care system is based on a regulated dual monopoly: on the one hand a state-owned and state-controlled health fund financed through obligatory contributions by all income earners, and on the other, a union of health providers that negotiate a national framework health contract with the fund. Public health care spending relative to GDP is similar to other countries in East-Central Europe and increased by about one percentage point of national income in the last decade. The system is inclusive and provides at least some level of health care for all who need it. Due to robust economic growth and the decline in unemployment, the financial balance of the health care system has improved.

The quality of health care services is average to lower. While life expectancy has risen and infant mortality has dropped, overall mortality and morbidity have remained high. A major efficiency problem of the Bulgarian health system is the lack of incentives for preventive measures and for stimulating healthier lifestyles, given that prevention is by far the least costly way of improving the health situation. The system also suffers from serious policy instability with frequent changes in the Ministry of Health. Over the last decade, ministers of health have served on average less than 11 months. In October 2017, the minister of health, Nikolay Petrov, was the first minister in the third Borissov government to resign following allegations about his involvement in a corruption scandal, while in his previous capacity as director of one of the largest hospitals in the country.

The practice of unregulated payments to doctors is widespread. Those who can afford to make unregulated payments, receive faster and better health care. This problem seems to be widely recognized, and during discussions on the 2018 budget all parliamentary parties expressed agreement that the system has too many leakages and needs a considerable overhaul. Reform proposals include demonopolization of health insurance at least to some extent and improvements in internal controls to stop embezzlement.

Citations:
Atanasova, E., M. Pavlova, E. Moutafova, B. Rechel, W. Groot (2013): Out-of-pocket payments for health care services in Bulgaria: financial burden and barrier to access, in: European Journal of Public Health 23(6), 916-922.

Families

#30

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
6
Family-policy debates in Bulgaria have focused on parental-leave benefits rather than on supporting mothers’ ability to work. While the share of children aged three to six enrolled in kindergartens has increased substantially over the last decade, public child care facilities are still less developed than in most other OECD and EU countries. Labor-market discrimination against pregnant women and mothers of small children is common, undermining the objective of providing free choice for women. However, Bulgarian grandparents are traditionally very involved in caring for children, which for some parents is an effective social-network mechanism reducing the need for state involvement. The parental-leave legislation favors mothers’ labor-market integration by guaranteeing mothers a right to return to their job even after two years of parental leave, and by allowing fathers to take parental leave as well. There is an active child support payment policy that often attracts social and political commentary, but the actual disbursements comprise a very small proportion (even within the social policy budget) and the effect on parents’ behavior seems negligible.

Pensions

#37

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
5
Bulgaria has a mixed pension system consisting of three pillars: a public pay-as-you-go pillar financed by social insurance contributions, an obligatory fully funded private-pension-fund pillar and a voluntary pillar. The second pillar includes people born after 1959 and is not yet paying out many pensions. The portion of social security contributions going to the second pillar has increased much less than originally envisaged. Consequently, the pillar is currently underfunded.

The pension system does not reduce poverty among the elderly, suffers from lack of intergenerational fairness and is fiscally unsustainable – especially in light of the negative demographic trends. The demographic problem was exacerbated by the suspension of the increase in the retirement age from 2013 to 2016. Moreover, as it stands, the increase will end when the retirement age reaches 65 for men in 2029 and women in 2032.

Like the previous budget, the draft budget for 2018 included a further one percentage point increase in social security contributions. While this move will increase revenues for the first and (to a lesser extent) second pension pillars, it will not make the system financially sustainable. The 2016 introduction of an option to opt out of the second pillar and participate only in the first pillar has further reduced the sustainability of the first pillar, despite possible positive effects for its revenues in the short run. So far, however, only about 0.03% of the funds accumulated in the universal private pension funds have been transferred to the first pillar.

Integration

#40

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
3
Bulgaria does not have a developed policy for integrating migrants, largely because the country has only been a transit point for migration flows to other EU countries. According to estimates, the share of migrants in the total population amounts to less than 1%, with most migrants being people of traditional Bulgarian origin from neighboring countries.

The influx of refugees in the wake of the Syrian crisis has demonstrated that accommodations for the migrants have been extremely poor; food, clothing and heating have been generally insufficient; and no real attempts have been undertaken to integrate migrants into the local society. In many municipalities, the local population has risen in protest against hosting migrants in their vicinity and against the prospect of migrant children attending local schools, thereby exacerbating the integration problems. These public attitudes contributed to the strong showing of nationalistic and xenophobic parties in the national elections in 2016 and 2017, and to the inclusion of the National Patriotic Front in the governing coalition.

Bulgaria’s policy is focused on trying to prevent migrants from entering the country rather than improving the coordination of and mechanisms for accommodating and integrating them. In fact, the country continues to pursue segregation in areas such as education, where language proficiency requirements prevent most refugee/migrant children from enrolling in school, and the presence of nationalists in the government has increased this tendency.

Citations:
Amnesty International (2018): Bulgaria Report 2017/2018. London (https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/bulgaria/report-bulgaria/).

Bordermonitoring Bulgaria (http://bulgaria.bordermonitoring.eu).

Safe Living

#38

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
5
While organized crime and violence against migrants remain serious problems, most citizens live relatively safely and crime statistics have fallen in recent years. Personal insecurity with respect to potential abuse of rights is related more to the ineffectiveness of the judiciary rather than the spread of petty crime. However, the Ministry of the Interior continues to delay much-needed police reforms and, despite relatively high public spending on public order and safety, the system is highly ineffective. EU partners’ lack of trust in the capacity of the Bulgarian internal security bodies is among the main reasons that the country has not yet become a member of the Schengen area.

Global Inequalities

#39

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
3
The promotion of equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries is not on the agenda of Bulgarian society and its government. Bulgarian officials take positions on this issue only when they are required to do so by the agendas of international bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations. On such occasions, the behavior of Bulgarian officials is reactive and not proactive. However, Bulgaria does not resort to protectionist trade barriers beyond the structure of such barriers imposed by the European Union, and does not impede or attempt to undermine efforts by the international community to promote equal opportunities in developing countries.
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