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Bulgaria: Social Groups and Their Work
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Social System > Social Groups and Their Work


Postwar Bulgarian society was divided into three social groups, according to type of work. Workers held jobs in the "productive" manufacturing sector of the economy. Employees worked in "non-productive" service and education jobs. The third group was made up of agricultural workers. The intelligentsia, usually considered a subsector of the employee category, held professional or creative positions requiring specific qualifications. In 1987 nonagricultural workers made up 63 percent of the population; employees made up 18 percent, and agricultural workers made up 19 percent. The intelligentsia made up 13.5 percent of the total population in 1985. Both the nonagricultural worker and the employee category grew about 15 percent between the censuses of 1975 and 1985, but the number of agricultural workers dropped steadily through the 1970s and 1980s. Of all people in the work force in 1990, only 21.7 percent were rated as highly qualified. Sociologists warned that figure would have to more than double if Bulgaria were to become economically competitive with the West.

Most of those registered as workers had jobs in industry. Between 1975 and 1985, the number of workers in the machinebuilding, spare-parts and metal-processing industries increased. Other industries, such as the food industry, the lumber industry, and the fuel industry, lost workers. Most workers were comparatively young, with little education and few work qualifications.

In the 1980s, employment grew in the trade, supply, construction, and transportation sectors. But the sectors requiring primarily intellectual work grew the fastest: research and research services, education, and administration. After growing by 90 percent between 1965 and 1985, administration included 26 percent of all employees and was the largest division of this category. The housing sector was the only component of the employee category that lost jobs between 1975 and 1990.

The number of agricultural workers decreased markedly from 50 percent of all workers in 1965 to 20 percent in 1985. As agricultural production intensified, many agricultural workers were transferred to nonagricultural jobs. In the late 1980s, however, a shortage of agricultural workers occurred because so many people had left the villages. For this reason, labor-intensive farm activities such as harvesting required recruitment of brigades from schools and nonagricultural enterprises. Many of the remaining farm workers could not adapt to new technology. This lack of adaptation inhibited the modernization and mechanization of agricultural processes.

The democratization that followed the Zhivkov regime raised the problem of unemployment, unknown in Bulgaria after 1944.

Because the national welfare system could only accommodate those who lost their jobs because of enterprise shutdown, in 1990 the Bulgarian government began seeking ways to create more jobs. It considered rewarding businesses that added shifts or offered parttime or seasonal work, and it encouraged development of small business. One proposed solution, replacing working pensioners with young unemployed workers, was unworkable because enterprises found it less expensive to continue hiring pensioners.

Data as of June 1992

Last Updated: June 1992

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bulgaria was first published in 1992. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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