Sofia is home to 1.3 million people or 19% of the total population of Bulgaria. Sofia traditionally is the city with the lowest unemployment and the highest average salary in the country.
65% of the city’s population is of working-age.
Sofia’s growing economy makes the city an attractive center for talented people from Bulgaria and abroad.

LABOR FORCE IN SOFIA

Labor Force Overview

Sofia is the district with the largest workforce in Bulgaria. In 2016, the average annual number of labor force aged 15 and over was 704,100 or 21.6% of the total labor force in Bulgaria. The figures are growing in 2017.

The economic activity rate in the city is also the highest in Bulgaria – 62.1%, compared to the average for the country – 53.3%.

Sofia also attracts the greatest number of daily labor migrants.

The Information Technology, Outsourcing and some manufacturing sectors are the most promising industries for employment generation in Sofia.

The unemployment rate in the capital for December 2016 is 2.3% – the number of unemployed reaches its lowest value for the last six years.

Education & Language Skills

The labor force in Sofia is educated and is characterized by a high level of foreign language fluency.

110 000 students in the 23 universities in the city.

The share of the university graduates in Sofia for the period 2011 – 2016 grew to reach 51.4% of the city’s population.

The number of Bulgarian students abroad totaled some 30 000 at the end of school year 2015 – 2016. Germany, the Netherlands and UK are the top 3 preferred destinations. A positive trend, however, is also observed in the number of graduates returning to Bulgaria – 70% of the people who legalized their foreign higher education diplomas from the beginning of 2013 to June 2016 began a professional career in Bulgaria.

Some of the highest ranking secondary schools are also in Sofia. These include high-schools with advanced foreign language and Natural Sciences & Mathematics profiles. Nearly 70% of the students in specialized schools attended a language school. The main languages studied are English, German, Spanish and French. About 50% of children study a second foreign language. Over 27,000 students in the capital take classes in entrepreneurship.

The high level of language skills of the labor force is the result of compulsory foreign language learning in schools and the concentration of highly educated young people in Sofia. The most common languages are English, Russian, German and Spanish.

The increasing number of the private software schools and academies is another competitive advantage of Sofia. As of July 2017, the licensed private IT education centers in Sofia are 83, and the total number of their graduates is over 8 000.

Labor costs & Remuneration

Sofia has a number of advantages compared to other major cities in the region – Belgrade, Bucharest, Skopje and Thessaloniki.

The leading advantage of the Bulgarian capital is the 10% direct tax (corporate and personal income tax) which are the lowest in the region, together with Macedonia. The total insurance burden of 31.4% of the gross salary in Bulgaria is also significantly lower than in the neighboring countries.

In March 2017, the average gross monthly salary in Sofia before tax and social security amounted to BGN 1 413 or EUR 722 – above the average figures for Bulgaria and the Balkan Region (Greece is an exception).

Highest remuneration is paid in the sectors Information and Telecommunication Services, Financial & Insurance Activities and Professional Activities & Scientific Research. The highly skilled labor force will continue to attract investments in the rapidly growing IT sector, the outsourcing of business services and some industrial activities with relatively high added value.

Labor Legislation

The main legislative act regulating the labor market relations is the Labor Code.

In 2015, flexible working hours were officially introduced in Bulgaria, and in 2014 the dual vocational training was formalized.

The relevant legislation documents listed below are available only in Bulgarian language:

The Labor Code

Employment Promotion Act

Settlement of Collective Labor Disputes Act

Workers’ Guaranteed Claims in Case of Employer’s Insolvency Act

Information and Consulting of Employees and Employers in Multinational Enterprises, Enterprise Groups and European Companies Act

Labor Inspection Act

Regulation of the Implementation of the People with Disabilities Integration Act

Regulation on the Implementation of the Labor Migration and Labor Mobility Act

Labor Migration and Labor Mobility Act

Recognition of Professional Qualification Act

Ordinance on the Conditions and Procedures for the Issuance of Certificates Related to Acquired Professional Qualification on the Territory of the Republic of Bulgaria

The European Union Blue Card is a work permit entitling its holder, who is not a national of an EU Member State, to reside and work on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria.

The basic conditions for issuing a Blue Card include:

  • – a valid employment contract or a binding job offer for at least one year;
  • – the offered salary is at least 1.5 times higher than the average annual gross salary in the respective EU country;
  • – a valid travel document and a visa, if required.

Approved applicants receive an EU Blue Card with a standard validity of one to four years, depending on the respective EU country or the duration of the employment contract. The validity of the EU Blue Card for Bulgaria is 4 years.

The ICT sector, attracts the greatest number of EU Blue Cards holders in Bulgaria, followed by engineers and managers.

For the first six months of 2017, EU Blue Cards in Bulgaria were issued to a total of 100 foreign citizens from 11 non-EU countries. The largest was the share of citizens from Ukraine, followed by Russia, China, India, Macedonia and the USA.

The regimes for work of foreign nationals from third countries in Bulgaria are two:

  • – for seasonal employment of up to 90 days – since 2017, the employer is no longer required to provide proof of education, professional qualification and experience before the Employment Agency. The new procedures are expected facilitate the attraction of workers for the Tourism sector;
  • – for permanent employment.

Since 2016, the market test proving that there was no suitable qualified candidate on the Bulgarian labor market for the respective position at the moment, before employing a third-country employee is also eliminated.

Citizens of EU Member States and countries from the European Economic Area and Switzerland are entitled to work in Bulgaria.

Irrespective of nationality, family members of EU citizens who have the right of residence or the right of permanent residence in a Member State can start work or be self-employed there.

Subsidized employment, recruitment through subsidized measures, programs, schemes and projects are based on the Employment Promotion Act. Subsidized employment is funded by the state budget.

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