Bulgaria is a party to all relevant major universal as well as regional legal instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is also a signatory to treaties on the right to equal compensation and collective bargaining and against employment discrimination. Market reforms, though, made Bulgarians aware of unemployment and job insecurity problems. Before 1989, the economy was plagued by the sustained labor deficit for blue-collar workers, but labor disputes were virtually non-existent since the Communist Party supervised trade unions. Nevertheless, over the decades after World War II, working conditions improved in both urban and rural areas with the introduction of new technology and progressive legislation and the development of health-care and social-security systems. At the same time, safety at work and environmental protection, particularly in the mining, energy, and chemical industries, were often inadequate.
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All Food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|a Excludes energy used for transport.|
|b Includes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
Bulgaria did not develop independent labor unions as such before democratic reforms took root. The only exception was the Podkrepa Labor Confederacy, now one of the major national unions. Along with the Confederacy of Independent Syndicates of Bulgaria and other groups, the Podkrepa participates in collective bargaining, and the unions' role is growing as many Bulgarians face unemployment and deteriorating working conditions. Conditions are notably bad in clothing sweatshops set up by foreign investors in rural areas severely afflicted by unemployment. Women have traditionally participated on an equal footing in the economy but are now suffering heavily from unemployment, job-related stress, and unsafe labor conditions. Over the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of educated young Bulgarians left the country, and it is expected that the forthcoming waiver of visa requirements for most EU countries will encourage others to seek short-term employment. EU membership is likely to intensify the mobility of workers between countries until a balance is reached.