3.1 General context
In 2021, the recovery of the labour market from the crises caused by the coronavirus shows delay. The measures implemented by the government have limited the unemployment growth rate, however the pre-crisis levels of the main labour market indicators in terms of employment and unemployment are not achieved. In 2021 the number of the economically active population at the age of 15-64 is 3 155.3 thousand. The economic activity ratio is 72.0% in comparison to 72.2% in 2020. The number of employed persons at the age of 15-64 is 2 986.7 thousand, in comparison to 3 024.3 thousand in 2020. The employment rate is 68.2% and is 0.3% and 1.9% lower than 2020 and 2019, respectively. The employment rate for the age group 20-64 is 73.1% and is also lower than 2020 and 2019. In terms of age structure of employed persons, the biggest share is for 45-54 years old (27.7%) and 35-44 years old (26.5%), and the lowest share is for young people at the age of 15-24 (3.4%). In comparison to 2020, the structure of employed persons by age shows decrease of the share of employed persons in the age groups 15-24 and 25-34 (by 0.3%) whereas the shares of employed persons in the age groups 45-54 and 55-64 increase (by 0.7% and 0.1%, respectively). In the structure of employed persons (at 15+) by economic sectors, the biggest share are employed in the “processing industry” (18.6%) and “sales, repair of cars and motorcycles” (16.7%). In comparison to 2020, the biggest increase is reported in the share of employees in the construction sector (by 0.7%), which reaches 8.7% in 2021. The share of employees in the economic activities “transport, warehousing and posts” (6.8% of all employees) and “creation and distribution of information and creative products; telecommunications” (3.3% of all employees) increases. The increase of the share of employees in some economic sectors is associated with decrease in other sectors. More significant decrease is reported in one of the coronavirus crisis most affected economic activities, and namely “hotel and restaurant management” (by 0.7%) the share of which is 4% in 2021. The relative share of those employed in agriculture, forestry and fishery decreases by 0.3% to 6.3%. The shares of those employed in “sales, repair of cars and motor cycles”, “administrative and auxiliary activities” and “extraction industry” decrease by 0.2%.
The trend of unemployment decrease that has been witnessed since 2014 was interrupted in 2020 because of the measures implemented to restrict the spread of COVID-19. In 2021, unemployment decreases on quarterly basis as absolute and relative values. The number of unemployed persons is 171.1 thousand in comparison to 168.6 thousand in 2020. The unemployment rate is 5.3% in comparison to 5.1% in 2020 and 4.2% in 2019. In 2021, the value of this indicator for men is 5.5%, and for women – 5.0%.
In the age group of unemployed persons, those in the age group 25-34 have biggest share (24.1%), and those in the age group 15-24 have the lowest share (11.4%). Decrease on annual basis is recorded in the share of unemployed at the age of 25-34 (by 0.3%) and in the share of 35-44 years old (by 1.9%). The share of unemployed persons from other age groups increases in comparison to 2020, with the biggest increase in the age group 45-54 (by 1.5%), and the lowest increase – in the age group 15-24 (0.1%).
Young people at the age of 15-29 years are significantly affected by the crises caused by the pandemic. In 2021, the number of unemployed young people at the age of 15-29 is 40.6 thousand in comparison to 36.7 thousand in 2020. The unemployment rate for the same age group is 10.4% in comparison to 8.8% in 2020. The trend of decrease in the number of young people at the age of 15-29 who are neither in employment, nor in education and training is interrupted in 2020. As reported by Eurostat, the value of this indicator for the EU is 13.2% in comparison to 17.5% for Bulgaria on average for the three quarters of 2021. The data reported by the Employment Agency show that in 2021, youth unemployment in the country decreases in comparison to the same period of the previous year. Unemployed young people in the two age groups (up to 24 and up to 29) that are subject to monitoring decrease in number and relative share of all registered unemployed persons. In 2021, unemployed persons up to 29 years are 20 230 on average monthly basis, which is 10 624 less than in 2020. Their relative share of registered unemployed persons is 11.1%. Unemployed persons up to 24 years decrease by 4 162 persons to reach 8 343 persons on average monthly basis, and their relative share is 4.6%.
All activities with young people on the labour market in Bulgaria are carried out in the context of the Youth Guarantee, which has been implemented since 2014 by encompassing young people up to 29 years (inclusive). In response to the updated Youth Guarantee, the scope of young people in the NEETs group will be expanded, high-quality offers for employment, training or return to education will be made, and the partnership approach in the implementation of the Youth Guarantee will be enhanced. The work with young people is subject to the guidelines of the new Council Recommendation on a Bridge to Jobs – Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee, structured in four working stages:
- Mapping: identifying the target group, available services and skills needs and enabling prevention through tracking and early warning systems;
- Outreach: raising awareness and targeting communication and stepping up the outreach to vulnerable groups;
- Preparation: using profiling tools to tailor individualized action plans, performing counselling, guidance and mentoring, enhancing digital skills with preparatory training, and assessing, improving and validating other important skills;
- Offer: making employment and start-up incentives work, aligning the offer to existing standards to ensure quality and equity, ensuring support after employment based on an offer and feedback.