Temporary home or final destination? Situation of migrant workers in Bulgaria

    Zvezda Vankova
    Bistra Ivanova
  • ISBN

    The main objectives of the comparative research project “Migrant Workers’ Perspective in Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria?” are to shed light on policies on migrants’ employment in four countries in the Central and Eastern European region – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania – and, by mapping regional similarities and differences, to create a common knowledge-base for policymakers and other stakeholders working in this field. Like most countries covered by this research, Bulgaria is slowly changing its profile, from a country of emigration and transit migration, to a country of immigration in need of foreign labour. This report aims to contribute to a better understanding of the policy frameworks on migrant employment shaped by the interplay of national and European legislation, and to establish whether they allow for settlement in the Bulgarian society or rather encourage secondary movement to other EU countries and circular migration. Another objective is to give voice to the migrants who are subject to these policies and examine how they experience them and how they shape their lives. To that end, the report analyses two different entry points chosen as case studies on the basis of a mapping exercise in order to understand migrants’ situation, motivation and possibilities when it comes to accessing the Bulgarian labour market. Last but not least, this report aims to support Bulgarian policymakers in evaluating the National Strategy on Migration, Asylum and Integration (2015– 2020) and to provide policy-relevant evidence in preparation of the next National Strategy covering the period after 2020.

    The first part of this report is based on desk research and provides an overview of Bulgaria’s political, economic and demographic situation over the past decade, its legal and policy framework on migrants’ access to the labour market, as well as public opinion on migration.

    The second part of the report focuses on an analysis of migrants’ experiences of studying, working and living in Bulgaria on the basis of 20 interviews – 16 with migrants and four with stakeholders – conducted in August 2019, aimed at identifying potential legal and policy gaps and challenges that are hampering their contribution to Bulgarian society. It focuses on two main entry points for migrants, which are relatively new and still underresearched. The first category is admission to the country with the support of job intermediaries in the tourist industry. These are relatively new players when it comes to migrant worker recruitment, responding to recently increasing demand for foreign labour. The second category chosen is the admission of migrants as university students who studied full-time at a Bulgarian university and started to work while their studies were still on-going or after they graduated. In addition, there is a special focus on foreign citizens of Bulgarian origin as they can benefit from facilitated admission and targeted programmes, which distinguishes them from other foreign students.

    Finally, the report makes a set of policy recommendations aimed at feeding policy discussions and further developments at national and EU level.