ECONOMY

Bulgaria to employ skilled foreign labor for its infrastructure works

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgaria has decided to employ high-skilled workers from abroad to make up for the shortage of qualified workers needed for planned energy and road projects, the government said yesterday. «The (center-left) government coalition decided to open the Bulgarian labor market in order to find qualified workers for the big infrastructure projects» in the energy and road sector, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Emilia Maslarova said. The government plan, expected to enter into force by May, envisages offering foreign workers «green cards for certain professions for a certain period of time,» Maslarova told national radio on the sidelines of a coalition reunion over the weekend in the southern town of Hisar. The work permits will be valid only for work in Bulgaria to prevent their holders from using them to gain access to the labor market of the European Union, which Bulgaria joined last year, she added. Maslarova did not indicate which countries will be included in the government plan but said that China, India and Vietnam have already demonstrated an interest as well as countries such as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova and Ukraine, which have sizable Bulgarian minorities. Bulgaria started to experience an increased shortage of skilled labor following the emigration abroad of thousands of people in the years after the fall of communism in 1989. Major employers have already complained about their inability to find qualified workers in sectors like energy, construction, tourism, metallurgy and chemical production, Maslarova said. Bulgaria, meanwhile, signed contracts to build a new nuclear plant on the Danube River and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline between the Black Sea and the Aegean. It also joined the South Stream and Nabucco gas pipeline projects and is planning to wrap up construction of a number of roads. Bulgaria has an unemployment rate of 6 percent but these are mainly low-skilled workers who cannot qualify for the projects, Maslarova said yesterday.