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 Job offers in Europe? No thanks, many Bulgarians say

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PostSubject: Job offers in Europe? No thanks, many Bulgarians say   Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:31 pm

Job offers in Europe? No thanks, many Bulgarians say

Bulgaria takes its expatriates sufficiently seriously that there is a Cabinet minister in charge of them;
much of the rest of the European Union takes Bulgarian expatriates so seriously that they are keeping their labour markets largely closed to them for as long as possible.

But, according to a recently-released EU-wide survey, Bulgarians are among those least willing in the bloc to go abroad in search of employment.

If the survey is accurate, it would – among other things – throw a dash of cold water over the more hysterical sections of the lobby that has been peddling scare stories about floods of migrants from Bulgaria, admittedly one of the least well-off countries in the EU.

The numbers game

Trends and statistics about the number of Bulgarians living and working abroad are difficult to track.

The figure of a million has been bandied about for some years, but in October 2009, the then head of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Raina Mandjukova, said that unofficial estimates put the figure as anywhere between three and four million (a statement made not long before Mandjukova was fired;
she was reported as saying that her Cabinet minister, Bozhidar Dimitrov, had told her that she had opened her big mouth once too often).

Similarly, there are few reliable indicators about Bulgarian populations in other EU countries, although it is generally held that the largest numbers are in Spain and Germany, respectively. Based on Spanish census figures, the figure there was said in 2009 to be 160 000. Other estimates offer numbers 10 000 or even 50 000 lower than that.

By comparison, the United States – the sole non-EU state among the top five of Bulgarians’ economic migration destinations of choice – is said to be serving as home to 60 000 Bulgarians. Like all such numbers, that one is open to dispute.

More officially, going by a survey done in 2009 at the request of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education, the period 2002 to 2006 saw a downturn in economic emigration by Bulgarians with tertiary education. In contrast, however, there was an upswing in unqualified people, mainly in their 20s, leaving Bulgaria to work elsewhere.

One may as well throw into the pot that for the 2009 national parliamentary elections, Bulgaria provided for voting stations outside the country to cater for an expected 140 000 people. Of course, that estimate reflects only people old enough to vote, and communities large enough to justify a voting station;
further, given the disputes about alleged voting abuses, it may not be a persuasive indicator about how many Bulgarians abroad there are.

A little something

Whatever their numbers, Bulgarians abroad are significant to the domestic economy because of the money they send to their families and dependants at home.

Estimates put this figure as having been about 1.5 billion Euro in 2008 and 1.5 billion Euro in 2009, the latter downturn a reflection of the economic crisis taking hold.

Job fairs are not a fully accurate indicator of trends, but going by some of the dominant types of employment offers at fairs hosted by the Employment Agency in the past year, Spain and Greece were seeking seasonal workers for their agricultural industries, while Germany and Finland were looking for medical personnel. Local media reports have suggested that well-qualified and French-speaking doctors from Bulgaria were in demand in France. Like most Bulgarian media reports, these should carry a health warning.

Many EU countries continue to restrict Bulgarians and Romanians from full labour market access, but these limitations are expected to come to an end by May 2011 and January 2014, respectively.

No greener grass

A Euro-barometer survey on "
geographical and labour market mobility"
in the EU, done in all EU states towards the end of 2009, named Bulgarians as among those most likely to say that they had not lived or worked abroad.

According to the survey, nine per cent of the Bulgarians polled said that they had lived or worked abroad, but it does not seem this figure is set to swell significantly. Notably, that figure is just one per cent less than the EU average, according to the survey.

Bulgarians also ranked the lowest, with Portuguese and Romanian people, as being the least willing to move out of the country to find work. However, 33 per cent of Bulgarians polled said that they would, so this figure should be seen in context, against other countries (France, Cyprus, Sweden) where there was much eagerness to follow the pot o’ gold.

Sixty per cent of Bulgarians polled said that their main reason for not being prepared to work abroad was that they would have to leave home. Well yes, that does seem to have an inevitable logic to it, but that is how the survey was done, with this response emerging ahead of other reasons.

On the other hand, of the possible reasons that would discourage a move to work abroad, Bulgarians – along with the Portuguese – ranked "
leaving friends behind"
as the negative factor of least importance, just four per cent of those polled citing it.

Meanwhile, in Europe…

The European Commission report on the Euro-barometer survey opens by saying: "
There is a long history of Europeans moving to another country in search of a better place, a good education, a job, higher income and moving to a nice place for retirement has been a choice for many Europeans"

However, it is only a relatively recent phenomenon that people have been granted the right to move to and work freely in another EU country without having to get a residence or work permit.

The free movement of EU workers within the then European Common Market first became possible in 1968 and was the first of the four basic economic freedoms of the European market to be implemented. The other principles covering the free movement of goods, services and capital were to follow only 25 years later with the emergence of the single European Market in 1993, the European Commission said.

The right to live and work in another European country is one of the EU's fundamental freedoms, but too few people currently take advantage of this right,"
according to László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

Worker mobility can help reduce unemployment by matching people with jobs available. Europeans recognise this fact, but still face barriers to moving around Europe for work. That's why we want to make it easier for them to move around and have made this is a priority in our Europe 2020 Strategy."

These words by Andor were quoted in a European Commission media statement on the topic of free movement rights for workers in the EU and about the Euro-barometer survey on labour mobility. After all, apart from the general enthusiasm within EU headquarters in Brussels for labour market mobility (as is well-known, an enthusiasm not shared by some newspapers whose readerships believe their jobs thus to be under threat), more than half the people in the EU see labour market mobility as a good thing, for European integration and for the economy. So the poll says, at least.

According to the survey, 17 per cent of Europeans envisage working abroad in the future, ranging from 51 per cent in Denmark to just four per cent in Italy. Thirty-four per cent of Europeans rate the chances of finding a job abroad better than at home. Unemployment is a powerful reason to move: 48 per cent of Europeans would consider moving regions or countries for work if they lost their jobs.

That 17 per cent may not sound like much, but if those wishes were fulfilled, there could be quite an impact. Currently, just 2.3 per cent of people in the EU reside in an EU member state other than their own.

For the record, respondents in Luxembourg are most likely to have lived and worked in another country (24 per cent), followed by the Irish (21 per cent) and the Danes (20 per cent).

Equally, respondents in Luxembourg are most likely to have lived abroad without working there (13 per cent), followed by the Cypriots and the Swedes (both nine per cent). Dutch and Danish respondents are most likely to have worked in another country without living there, but the percentage is very small, at just four and three per cent, respectively.

It is also important to note, the report says, that the share of respondents with concrete plans to move in the near future is small.

Most respondents were unsure about when they would work abroad (32 per cent said "
don’t know yet"
and three per cent "
don’t know"

For those in the EU that were able to give a time frame, most thought that they would be working abroad in the next three to five years (22 per cent) or even later (18 per cent). Only 12 per cent envisaged working abroad within a year, the poll said.

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