Bulgarian youth's views change after EU membership

01 Feb 2008

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Studies show that with Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, Bulgarian youth are now more optimistic about their future and the future of their country and seek opportunities within their own country rather than abraod.         

New Horizons - A  sociological survey among 1000 youth between the age 15-30 was conducted in Bulgaria in October-November 2007 by UNDP Bulgaria in partnership with BBSS Gallup International. The aim of the survey was to assess the young Bulgarians’ perspectives and challenges during the country’s first year as member of the European Union.

In this context  expert researches  and  analytical evaluations were carried out and interviews with Bulgarian youth were realized  in order to learn their opinions about thier career development, thier  attitudes to migration and readiness to partake in political and civic actions. The results of the survey were broadly publicized, discussed with experts, media, representatives of government institutions and academics and were then published in the December issue of Bulgaria: Beyond the Facts.

Although youth in Bulgaria is perceived as a diminishing factor of the total population, Resident Representative for UNDP Bulgaria Henry Jackelen says: “I am happy to say that the youth of Bulgaria is optimistic for the future and see their future within the country.  This is the key result of the surveys.  Many would have guessed that with Bulgaria’s EU accession the opposite would be the case and that youth would see their opportunities more outside than inside.”

The outcomes of the survey can be categorized as Bulgarian youth’s perceptions on EU membership, economy and employement, independency, emigration and travelling abroad, politics and education.

According to the study the EU membership of Bulgaria is perceived as a source of serious opportunities,  not as a source of risks. Around 56% of the interviewed youth apprehend the Euro integration of Bulgaria as something personally positive. For them, EU offers opportunities for labour or educational mobility, improvement of the enviroment and life standards including earnings and overall prosperity. The survey points out to high levels of optimism.

In Bulgaria there is a strong wish among youth for early seperation from parents and earning own money. The young people in Bulgaria can be characterized as economically active above the average with earnings also relatively above the average. 87% of people above the age of 26 years work and only 7% are unemployed. Around 15% of the interviewed at age 23-30 years have their own businesses. Concerning personal financal status, young people in Bulgaria demonstrate clearly expressed expectations for fast growth of their personal/family incomes as well as expectations for a higher starting salary.  In this sense studies show that the private sector is more attractive for youth because it offers more opportunities as well as high and fast growing salary. The Bulgarian youth cherish the competitive environment and count on the professional skills as a factor for ascending social class. “Looking from this angle, the Bulgarian youth with its economic conceptions is more a plus than a minus for the Bulgarian economy regarding its competition power” states Bulgaria: Beyond the Facts. However studies show that professional and qualified work is a priority that stands before the security of the job.

In the very beginning of the postcommunist transition, the active generations in Bulgaria were taken over by the wish to travel abroad. According to evaluations, in the first years after 1989 many Bulgarians (around 800 thousand people) among whom quite many are young people left the country in search of a better life, connected mostly with better paid jobs.  However with Bulgaria’s EU integration the survey has found out that for youth, the value of Bulgaria as a place for living and realization as well as for education has grown significantly. Today youth have broader expectations from Bulgaria and this is a result of political stability, growing economy, slow increase of incomes in general and possibilities of finding better-paid jobs. On the other hand the relatively free and accessible travel in EU has made leaving Bulgaria more of a simple option than obligation. Accordingly young Bulgarians up to 30 years old have comparatively low wishes for emigration and a large number of them already have a significant personal experience from travel or even temporary work abroad.   Every third of Bulgarian people up to 30 years has already traveled abroad at least once. Every tenth interviewed has already worked outside Bulgaria mainly as students or seasonal workers. Consequently they have a more realistic idea about other EU countries. Intentions for permanent emigration are relatively low.  There are still wishes for education abroad, but always with intentions for return to Bulgaria. Only 8% of the age group 14-30 plan to move to other EU countries or USA, and this proves the concerns of countries like UK the be exaggerated.

The survey that analyes political participation of youth in Bulgaria shows that in general young people are not interested in politics. The level of participation in democratic elections in 1990-1992 was 75-80% while today it is only 45-55%. There is a fast withdrawal of citizens from political participation. However the survey also shows that youth actually has high political expectations and that youth is distancing itself from politics only because they reject the leading political style, not politics in general. The survey underlines however  that Bulgarian youth is not passive citizens and that they show high readiness for civic activities such as volunteering.

As regards to education researches show that education in Bulgaria is still not apprehended by youth as an investment although there is a general readiness. The survey shows that higher education in the country is currently a barrier for the competitive power of the young generation. Only a bit over one third of young Bulgarians who are university students are convinced that their specialty can prove high incomes for them. About 43% do not think that the market needs specialists with the qualifications that they are obtaining at the moment, and about half of the interviewed declare that it might be better to have professional skills even from high school in order to find a good job. Currently universities are considered more of a fashion than for carrier planning.

The national sociological survey represents the entire country and includes youth of different gender, ethnicity, education level, region and type of settlement i.e. district, town and villages. It also takes into account different income levels, possesions, level of consumption, the level of need to basic goods and services and social status.

The survey conducted in 2007 and published in Bulgaria: Beyond the Facts was a continuation of surveys carried out in the 1997-2006 period. Bulgaria: Beyond the Facts is a monthly publication that analyses the important trends in politics, economics and social affairs. The data used by the publication is received from a number of sources such as official government and international institutions as well as  from opinion polls carried out exclusively for the publication.

To read the December special editon of Bulgaria: Beyond the Facts, please click here.