Report: Bulgaria needs better labor

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria should revamp its education and employment plans in line with investor needs to ensure economic growth and boost convergence with European Union standards, a report said yesterday. The report, written by leading Bulgarian scientists and economists and ordered by President Georgi Parvanov, said Bulgaria can sustain economic growth of over 8-9 percent a year through 2020, provided it boosts employment and maintains fiscal prudence. Parvanov said the former communist country, which became the European Union’s poorest member when it joined the bloc in January, should step up the pace at which it catches up with the rest of the bloc. «The learning period is over, it is time to cooperate and compete on the European market. We should wipe out the consequences of the transition period: the gray economy, graft, the large civil service,» he told a forum. «Only a competitive economy can be social.» Foreign investors have complained of a lack of both well-trained and low-skilled workers in the Balkan country. Many investors say they have to bring qualified staff from the West for senior positions as most of the syllabuses at Bulgarian universities are inadequate for market needs. Low wages are another hurdle. Around a million young Bulgarians have emigrated since the fall of communism in 1989 to look for better paid jobs abroad, creating serious shortages on the local labor market. The report urged the Socialist-led government to resist swift rises in wage, which it said should grow only in line with the economy. Bulgarian wages are currently just a third of EU average at 200 euros per month. Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev agreed. «If we act under the pressure (to boost incomes)… we risk destabilizing the macroeconomic development of the country and letting things go out of control,» he told a discussion panel on the report.

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