Bulgaria has excellent working conditions, and with the number of jobs in the education and IT sectors growing, the country has become a new hot spot for foreign national workers. It should be noted however, that the unemployment rate in Bulgaria is still relatively high due to the effects of the recession, and as such, the jobs market is regarded as competitive.
Bulgaria’s jobs market is competitive, but in industries where growth (combined with a lack of local skilled labour) exists, the chance of securing a job is much higher. Ski resorts and jobs within the hospitality industry are two examples where job opportunities for foreign workers are growing.
Unfortunately, due to the unemployment levels being so high, local companies aim to recruit local professionals and graduates before opening their vacancy up to other EU and non-EU nationals. This makes the job hunting process rather more difficult for non-EU citizens; although, with the right skills, education and experience, it can be made much easier.
Language requirements: Without proficiency in Bulgarian (the country’s native language), English, German or French, you will struggle to land a job. Most businesses require candidates to have knowledge of at least 2 languages, with Bulgarian and English being the most highly sought after.
Major industries of employment in Bulgaria
- Refined petroleum products
- Food industry
- Chemicals and pharmaceuticals
- Power generation
- Machine building and metal working
Avoid moving to Bulgaria for jobs within the following industries as these are considered to be ‘in decline’:
- Manufacturing and construction
Foreign nationals (non-EU citizens) should note that the lack of skilled local labour in certain industries is a positive point for them. This is primarily because where a lack of local labour exists, the hiring company has the right to hire outside of Bulgaria. There is currently a lack of skilled local labour in the ICT, processing and food and tobacco industries.
Living and Working in Bulgaria
The capital city of Bulgaria is Sofia, which is also the largest city in the country. Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Russe and Bourgas are considered to be Bulgaria’s major cities, all of which are most popular with expats for job opportunities.
In general, the working conditions in Bulgaria are good. The average working week is 40 hours (8 hours daily, across a standard 5 day week) and the employee benefits in Bulgaria are particularly favoured amongst expats, especially the maternity leave and allowance. There is a minimum annual leave allowance of 20 days per year, together with an additional 11 public holiday days.
Foreign nationals are usually required to submit a letter of employment and contract to the necessary authorities when seeking a work permit. The Bulgarian employer initiates the work permit application on behalf of the foreign employee, and on approval of the application, the Bulgarian Employment Agency will issue the work permit. It should be noted that work permits are valid for 1 year and can be renewed for a further 1-year term. In order to successfully attain a work permit, the foreign employee must also receive a long-stay visa. If you are an EU citizen, work permit restrictions do not apply.
Bulgaria’s Business Etiquette
Working relationships are an essential part of Bulgarian business culture and building relationships based on trust and understanding are therefore crucial, but can often take some time. The formality of the Bulgarian business community is reflected in the importance placed on using the appropriate titles, even with colleagues of equal status.
Corporate culture is hierarchical, but often the opinion of everyone involved is considered when reaching decisions. Senior members have the most authority, and command a certain level of respect. A firm handshake and direct eye contact are customary when meeting someone. It is also customary to exchange business cards upon initial meetings.
The conventional attire for men is a business suit and tie, although this could be more relaxed during warmer months, while women should dress in a stylish yet conservative way.