Bulgaria plans to bring in skilled workers

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria plans to import skilled workers to help it build international energy pipelines and a nuclear power plant due to staff shortages at home, the labor minister said yesterday. «We are talking about tens of thousands of workers – mostly in construction, energy and tourism,» Emilia Maslarova told Reuters in an interview. The European Union newcomer has already started to bring in a small number of foreign workers, mainly from neighboring Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), to carry out overhauls of its potholed roads and build hotels and shopping malls. The pickup in the emerging economy, driven by preparations for EU entry and an improving business environment, have cut dole queues to 7 percent, the lowest level since the fall of communism in 1989. The Balkan country’s population has shrunk to 7.8 million as about 1 million of its young people have emigrated to North America and Western Europe over the past 18 years to seek better pay abroad during the painful transition to a market economy. «We import workers as it is… but now the big infrastructure projects are coming along with big foreign investment, which would force us to speed up the process,» Maslarova said. Bulgaria plans to build a new -4 billion nuclear power plant and is also a partner in three major trans-Balkan oil and gas pipeline projects, some of which are expected to kick off next year. Maslarova said Bulgaria’s pool of potential workers among the jobless was draining fast and the resources left were mainly uneducated and untrained people. The ministry will double funds this year to train some 73,000 unemployed, but imported workers were inevitable and Bulgaria was likely to look first in neighboring, non-EU countries as well as to some Asian states, she said. Ukrainian, Moldovan, FYROM, Serb and Turkish workers were already interested in finding jobs in Bulgaria, the ministry data showed.