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News 06 Dec 16

Bulgaria’s Industrial Hub Appeals to Foreign Workers

Major industrial enterprises in the region of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, want to hire at least 5,000 workers but lack qualified candidates and plan to recruit ethnic Bulgarians from abroad.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The city of Plovdiv. Photo:Morris Depot Kid/CC BY 2.0

The Trakia Economic Zone in the Plovdiv region of south-central Bulgaria is launching a campaign to attract workers in order to fill in around 5,000 vacancies, representatives of the businesses involved and the municipal authorities announced on Tuesday.

The companies, most of them operating in the industrial sector, are planning to encourage labour migration from Bulgaria’s regions with high unemployment rates, but also from countries with large ethnic Bulgarian minorities, such as Ukraine, Moldova and northern Greece.

“Over the past several years, Plovdiv has proved itself as an industrial leader in the country – over 50 per cent of the region’s economy is comprised of production,” said Stefan Stoyanov, deputy mayor of Plovdiv.

He explained, however, that the educational system in the region can hardly catch up with the dynamic development of industry, which has started attracting investments with higher added value.

Trakia Economic Zone, or TEZ, which brings together all industrial zones in the regions, is the fastest-growing industrial hub in Bulgaria. Over 120 enterprises, 80 of which foreign, are located there, employing over 66,000 workers in manufacturing and 20,000 engineers.

The automotive manufacturing industry in the region is booming, with around 50 companies which produce car components for a variety of world brands.

“Bulgaria is our third largest [production] location in the world, after China and Mexico, with a key role for the European market,” said Chavdar Kamenov from Sensata Technologies, a leading company in the production of sensors and controls.

He added that the company is planning to increase the number of workers in its Plovdiv base from 300 to between 1,500 and 2,000 over the next few years.

Kamenov explained that Bulgarian education suffers from a lack of focus on opportunities for career development in industrial production, which if addressed, could “stop the brain drain of young people abroad”.

The campaign for bringing employees to the Plovdiv area will start in 2017 with visits to municipalities with high unemployment in Bulgaria and abroad, including the city of Odessa in Ukraine.

Plovdiv’s deputy mayor said that the municipality has already started bringing Ukrainian students to study computer engineering in regional universities, who are later employed by local enterprises.

According to Plamen Panchev, the president of Cluster TEZ, which is engaged with developing the zone, among around 5,000 vacancies, 600 highly-qualified, 2,000 semi-skilled and 2000 low-skilled workers are needed.

The average monthly salary in the manufacturing industry for low-skilled workers varies between 500 and 1000 leva (or between 250 to 500 euros), but could reach 3,500 leva (around 1,750 euros) for highly-qualified workers.

Representatives of the companies noted that they are planning to offer housing and educational opportunities for migrant workers and their families who decide to move to the Plovdiv area.

“Right now Plovdiv is the second city in terms of attracting migration from the whole of Bulgaria.  We are trying to focus this migration on industries that are in the biggest need of workers – and which could offer better wages,” Stoyanov told BIRN.

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