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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Political and economic situation


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.4Political and economic situation

Last update: 27 November 2023

Economic regions (areas of planning)

For the purposes of planning, programming, management, resource assurance, monitoring and evaluation of regional development, several distinct areas have been introduced in Republic of Bulgaria. They are divided into different levels in compliance with the requirements of the general classification of territorial units for statistic purposes, applied in the European Union. Regions in Republic of Bulgaria are divided into two levels: level 1 and level 2.

Level 1 regions (NUTS 1) do not represent administrative territorial units. Their territorial range is as follows:

  1. Region „Northern and Southeastern Bulgaria” including Northwestern region, Northern Central region, Northeastern region and Southeastern region
  2. Region „Southwestern and Southern Central Bulgaria” including Southwestern region and Southern Central region.

Level 2 regions are distinctly established by a decree of the Council of Ministers of Republic of Bulgaria and include 6 regions for territory planning. Each of the Planning regions covers the territory of several regions in the country. In December 2007 the borders of some of those regions were altered due to a EUROSTAT requirement for the territorial units within the framework of the European Union, according to which a minimum of 800 thousand and a maximum of 3 million people must live in a single region.

Level 2 regions (NUTS 2) do not represent administrative territorial units and have the following territorial range:

  1. Northwestern region which includes the regions Vidin, Vratsa, Lovech, Montana, and Pleven.
  2. Northern Central region which includes regions Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo, Razgrad, Ruse and Silistra.
  3. Northeastern region which includes regions Varna, Dobrich, Targovishte and Shumen.
  4. Southeastern region which includes regions Burgas, Sliven, Stara Zagora and Yambol.
  5. Southwestern region which includes regions Blagoevgrad, Kyustendil, Pernik, Sofia and Sofia-capital.
  6. Southern Central region which includes the regions Kardzhali, Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Smolyan and Haskovo.

Economic development

In 1989 Republic of Bulgaria entered the path of democratic transformation and development of free market relations. At this initial period the market was characterized by a minimal administrative interference and regulation due mostly to the lack of existing practices at this particular moment of transition. So the governments of the years of transition were urged to gradually build up the normative framework which is supposed to defend the interests both of society and of economic players.

The first two years after the admission of Bulgaria to the European Union /2007-2008/ were successful from the point of view of the socio-economic development of the country and brought a number of positive changes, characterized by comparatively high total economic growth (over 5%), a trend of decline of unemployment, maintaining low consumer price index, high level and rise of direct overseas investments, increase in real household income.

These positive macroeconomic changes were partly eliminated by the increasing impact of the worldwide economic crisis following 2009. These effects were related mostly to:

  • a decrease in GDP growth, gradually turning into negative growth;
  • sharply decreased foreign direct investments (FDI);
  • a rise in unemployment rates.

In the years 2009-2010 the percentage of unemployed people has raised by 3.4 points to 10,2% which was accompanied by a decrease of employment rate by 2,68 points to the level of 46,7%. This corresponds with the rate of employment in 2006.

Data of the last eight years has shown comparatively less employment among the population between 25-30 and 50-55 age segment which is considered as “working age”.

In recent years, the trend is preserved unchanged, keeping the employment rate of the population over 50 years of age lower than that of the population of the younger age groups. For the age group of 50-55 it is predetermined mainly by comparatively large segment of retiring males. For those over 55 years of age the employment rate falls considerably due to mass female retirement of those who have completed the statutory retirement age. It should be noticed that in 2012 the retirement age changed and currently it is 63 for women and 65 for man.

The rising unemployment affects more men (for them the increase during last year was 3,9 percent points) than women (increase of 2,9 percent points). The growth is especially sensitive in age groups 15-24 and 25-34 where it is respectively 7% and 4,5%.

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union if one takes into account the GDP per capita, calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity. And although тхе Republic of Bulgaria retains its financial stability due to the strict rules established by the Bulgarian National Bank, total decline in economic activity led to тхе reduction and non-fulfillment of the revenue part of the state budget. This required taking a number of reforms and restrictive measures in the public sector. Originally planned public funds for education in the state budget have been reduced, however, taking into consideration the priority role of education in social development, the government keeps the amount of support per student at Secondary education. Public expenditure on education for the period 1999-2007 outlines a downward trend until 2001 when it reached 3,78%, followed by a short period of increase  in 2004-2005 when it reached a level of 4,51% and in 2008 it represented 4,61% of the GDP of the country.

According to EUROSTAT data, Bulgaria takes one of the last three places in Europe for public expenditure on education as a percentage of the GDP.

This negative picture is partly compensated by higher expenditure used by public and private educational institutions, according to EUROSTAT data (2007), and amounts to 0,62% of the GDP. Relatively large percentage of private expenditure on education in Bulgaria slightly fluctuates above or bellow the average for EU 27.

Political and legislative situation regarding education

Тхе Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria guarantees the right of each and every Bulgarian citizen to education as well as the academic autonomy of the higher schools. The right to education and ongoing qualification enhancement is also guaranteed by the National Education Act (NEA), as restrictions and privileges based on race, nationality, gender, ethnic and social origin, religion, and public status are not allowed.

Management and control body over the education is the Minister of education, youth and science who in his/her activity is assisted by the specialized administration of the ministry.

Relationships between the subjects and objects within the system of education are mainly regulated by the following laws:

There are numerous secondary legislation normative documents – rules, regulations and instructions, which further develop the texts of law and largely centralize the processes in the school system. Management bodies in the Bulgarian education system ensure adaptation of the system to the new challenges, as well as sustainable development in compliance with the European standards and its ability to provide high quality and compatible knowledge and skills.

In recent years, Bulgaria has rapidly developed the non-formal educational services sector. The main directions are related to adult education, working with disadvantaged people, as well as extracurricular activities within the school institution. According to the results of National Statistical Institute’s surveys, the participation rate of population aged 25-64 in at least one form of LLP has increased significantly – from 16% in 2003 to 48,5% in 2007.

There are many factors determining this increase, but most important are related to the overall country’s economic growth, changes in employer’s and people in working age attitudes to education and training, active actions of state institutions, accession of Bulgaria to the EU and implementation of many European programs containing measures and educational activities. The challenges of today that are facing the system of non-formal education are mostly directed to its legal regulation, the possibilities and options for certification and recognition of gained experience. Achievement in this context is the foundation of Non-formal education major at the Faculty of Education in Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”. Significant practical experience in the establishment and development of youth policies, practices and models has the National Centre for European youth programs and initiatives (NCEYPI), which is the institutional representative in Bulgaria of the EU’s “Youth in Action” Program.