The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Bulgaria:
- Waste Management
Bulgaria has failed to fulfil its commitments and self-imposed targets for waste management in many areas, or else only with great delay, has delivered comparatively poor results and information for the sector, and thus quickly ends up in the hot seat for its inadequate waste management. The fact is that, for example, an EU-wide assessment of waste management by the Member States recently placed the country towards the bottom of the list. Using 18 evaluation criteria, only the situation in Greece placed even worse. Bulgaria, as well as selected cities in the country, ranked towards the lower end on the most important indicators and comparisons in terms of the implementation of the waste hierarchy and other waste management principles. Even though recycling waste for plastic are similar to the EU average (30 and 32.2 respectively), other materials such as metal only have a share 50.5, as opposed to the EU level of 69.5.
Rural: Nearly two-thirds of the poor live in rural areas where agriculture is usually the only sector offering jobs.Nearly half of Bulgarian farms are involved in
subsistence farming and 75 percent of the farms are outside the scope of EU sectoral assistance. The workforce in rural areas is rapidly aging (with nearly
26% of the population above working age compared to 17% for the urban population) and lacks capital assets.
Ethnic: The poverty rate among the Roma is 33 percent compared to 5 percent for their non-Roma neighbours. The Roma account for a significant part of the poor but only 4.8 percent of the population. Roma women have significantly lower educational attainment and consequently are more likely to be unemployed or employed in informal activities. Roma women have much lower economic activity rates compared to non-Roma women. There are indications that poverty may also be high among the Turkish minority, which constituted 8.8 percent of the population in 2011. Nearly 18 percent of ethnic Turks are unemployed, compared to only 8 percent of ethnic Bulgarians, and the economic activity rate for women is 10 percentage points lower for Turks than for Bulgarians.
- Gender and age
Poverty is higher for women, especially elderly women, than for men. Nearly 830,000 women in Bulgaria are at risk of poverty, of these 33 percent are older than 65 years; the comparable figures for men are 697,000 and 17 percent. More than half of Bulgarian pensioners live with monthly payments below poverty line. The total number of pensioners in Bulgaria is 2,182,000, according to the EU member state in which children face the highest risk of poverty and social exclusion. Eurostat data for 2016, published on the occasion of the World Children’s Day, reveal that 43.7 percent of children in Bulgaria (or 527,000) live in low-income households whose earnings are based on seasonal or other types of precarious workers.
Income inequality in Bugaria is still among the highest in the EU. As the population ages and skilled workers become progressively scarcer. Adequately addressing these challenges and accelerating economic growth will increasingly depend on Bulgaria’s capacity to implement structural reforms. In 2019, the government decided that the poverty line in Bulgaria will be EUR 178. The amount is EUR 14 higher than its size last year. The amount is determined on the basis of a methodology approved by the Council of Ministers in 2006. The indicator is calculated according to the data in the survey “Household Budget Surveys in the Republic of Bulgaria”, which is conducted annually by the National Statistical Institute. The poverty line is used as a reference value in the formation of social policy in the field of income and living standards of the population.
Although the labor market has improved and during the last two years the employment rate reached 71.3 %, the highest since Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, some groups (the low- skilled, young people, the Roma, people with disabilities) continue to face challenges. A shrinking working-age population as well as skills shortages and skills gaps continue to be of concern.