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3 October 2018

Bulgaria: trade unions want legislative changes that lead to improvement of purchase power

A research project on income and poverty commissioned by the Bulgarian trade union, CITUB, has come up with alarming results. Based on its findings, the union has formulated a plea for legislative changes that should lead to a drastic improvement in minimum incomes. The results are seen by CITUB as a strong argument in its campaign for better wages.

Latest research data on income and poverty, released by the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR) at the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), has prompted the union to issue a plea for a substantial improvement in wages and the country’s minimum income level. According to the ISTUR research, 30% of all households - more than 2.2 million people - have a total monthly income per person of less than 321 BGN (164 euro). In some areas the researchers found that average wages were only about 50% of the amount required to support life.

ISTUR calculated that the monthly per capita cost of living is 590.32 BGN, an increase of 36 leva since the beginning of 2018. The official poverty line for 2019, as set by the government, is 348 BGN (178 euro). The poverty line is calculated according to survey data on household budgets which is collated annually by the National Statistical Institute. The amount is used as a benchmark in the formulation of social policy in the field of income and living standards. In its Europe 2020: National Reform Programme, the government declared an ambition to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 260,000 in 2020. Whilst it is expected that a growing number of workers are dependent on the minimum wage, the country still lacks a transparent mechanism for setting this.

Based on the research, CITUB has calculated that a family of four with two dependent children needs an average of 2,361.28 BGN monthly to pay the cost of food, home maintenance, healthcare, transport and recreation. Decent living requires an average net monthly pay of some 1,200 BGN, but no more than 20% of the workers receive such wages. The average net pay in March 2018 was 321 leva lower, or some 27% less than the average cost of living. CITUB has formulated the ambition to reach 60% of the average European income in the coming years.

Ombudsman Maya Manolova, who analysed the results of the research, said that she will report on these after the enactment of 2018 legislative changes, which guarantee the payment of salaries in the event of employer bankruptcy the size of payments by the Employee Claims Guarantee Fund.

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