This publication presents the results of an academic and field research conducted within the framework of the project “Strengthening the Labour Rights of Migrant Workers in Bulgaria”, implemented by the Center for legal aid – Voice in Bulgaria (CLA) within the framework of a joint programme on labour rights and labour migration of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Germany.

The methodology of this publication includes academic legal and economic analysis combined with field research through informational interviews with three target groups – vulnerable migrant workers; selected employers and business representatives working with migrants; trade unions. The findings of the fieldwork and academic research form the basis for the proposed recommendations for legislative, administrative and policy changes.

The study combines an analysis of the legal and economic aspects of the specificities of labour migration in Bulgaria in the current complex moment of increased demographic crisis and record migration pressure not only at national but also at European level. The analysis has been carried out by experts from CLA-Voice in Bulgaria and the Institute for Market Economics (IME).

One of the main objectives of the project “Strengthening the labour rights of migrant workers in Bulgaria” is to start a whole new discussion on migration in Bulgaria, based on the enormous potential, positives and development that migrants bring, regardless of whether they are only economic migrants or those who are forced to leave their countries as a result of persecution or armed conflict. The two groups – voluntary and forced migrants, although subject to different regimes of access to territory and residence, often overlap and lack a clear distinction in terms of integration needs, respect for rights, access to services, contribution to the economic and social development of the host society. This is why the main intersection of the two internal migrant groups, and of migrants in general with the local population, is the labour market – where real life and effective integration happen.

What are the challenges faced by migrant workers, especially the most vulnerable among them, in the process of labour market integration in Bulgaria? What are the difficulties faced by employers who have hired or intend to hire migrant workers? What is the role of trade unions in the process of labour integration and monitoring for respecting the rights of migrant workers in the country? What is the state of the labour market in our country and what are the economic needs and challenges facing Bulgaria? What is the potential for migration to be part of the response to these needs?

This publication seeks to answer these questions by going through an analysis of the complex legal framework and the difficulties it creates for the most vulnerable migrants, and places it in the prism of the economic picture of the state of the labour market, the demand for workers in Bulgaria and the role of foreigners in this market. Combining legal and economic analysis best reflects the real demands and conditions in the host society and the requirement for our migration policy to be adequately reformed so that migration is part of the response to those needs.

The findings of the field study and both analyses unequivocally indicate that:

  • • -Bulgaria’s labour market needs for workers are increasing and migration will play an increasing role in supplying them;
  • • the profile of the migrant population from third countries in Bulgaria is highly favourable;
  • • the need for further reform and facilitation of access to work permits, right to work and effective integration of migrants is pressing;
  • • refugees remain an almost completely untapped labour resource, despite the demonstrated success of targeted labour integration projects;
  • • the protection of migrant workers’ rights, especially the most vulnerable among them, remains out of sight for trade unions, NGOs and the state.

 The full text of the publication in english will be published soon