UNICEF: Every fifth young person in Bulgaria aged 15 to24 is neither in employment, nor in education or training

19.05.2015 12:01

A research by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows that Bulgaria has the highest percentage of NEETs in the EU, and the national  economy loses around BGN 2 billion annually because of young people’s drop out from the labor market 

FULL REPORT (Bulgarian) .pdf



Sofia, 19 May 2015 UNICEF presented topoliticians, international experts, media the first of its kind national research about adolescent and young people in Bulgaria who are neither in employment, nor in education or training – so called NEETs. 

Unfortunately, Bulgaria ranks first in the EU when it comes to the number of young people who are not a part of either the educational, social or labor systems.  There are about 167 670 among 751 900 young persons aged 15 to 24 who find themselves in this situation - this makes up around 22%, and is the highest percentage for the EU, where the average is around 12, 9%.

“This is a very serious issue in Bulgaria. You can see these young people in small villages, within ethnic minorities, but also everywhere else - meaning that this problem is relevant and present in all communities throughout Bulgaria. We have been observing the troubling phenomenon where children are less educated than their parents, and usually it is the other way round.  At the end of 2014, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy signed an agreement with the labor unions, non-governmental organizations and partners - so that we could get these young people out of the dead-end situation together“, said Mr. Ivaylo Kalfin, Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social policy.

Among the measures that minister Kalfin depicted are the re- integration of young people back into the educational system; the introduction of dual education, a system for validation of the acquired practical knowledge and business-oriented skills; the signing up of the NEETs at employment bureaus; changes in the national employment code that would allow flexibility in seasonal employment; the introduction of vouchers for social services through which young persons who take care of the elderly or systematically help with domestic work will get paid. 

UNICEF on its part urges politicians to include the challenges that come along with the group of young people not in employment, education or training in their agenda as soon as possible. The reason behind that - the annual economic losses resulting from the withdrawal of NEETs from the labor market amount to BGN1.9 billion (based on an estimated loss for Bulgaria totaling 2.36% of the GDP5 and BGN80.2 billion worth of GDP for 2013).

 “One of the biggest problems in today’s global world is young people’s feeling of lack of perspective. This leads to unimaginable consequences and extreme actions, as we have been seeing in the Middle East for example. In the case of Bulgaria - these young people will soon become parents. So, having the chance to develop their full potential is not only their basic right, but is also a right for their children to have a dignified future. Furthermore, the development of these young people leads to the society’s development as well, because it adds social and economic value to the whole process“, said Mrs. Tanja Radocaj, UNICEF Representative to Bulgaria. 

The NEET group is diverse and includes several sub-groups with varying socio-demographic profiles, different levels of work and social activity and a varying level of motivation, attitude and opportunity for alternation of the status.

The probability of falling into the NEET category is influenced by 4 main areas: 

“Why are the young people of today out of their democratic and social state? The majority of them are disappointed by the discrepancy between their expectations and the reality they are offered.  We need our voices to be heard as well as more support from politicians and adults as we are their tomorrow and they carry the burden of our demotivation. Their tomorrow is asking them “Why? “, said Alex Chobanova, a student and a volunteer working with many NEETs.

According to UNICEF, it is exactly the measures in the field of education that are underestimated.  They are mainly focusing on the reduction of the number of early school leavers - this is one of the most vulnerable groups. However, what is needed is a reform that would change the existing prototype of school education which in turn would increase the motivation and qualification of teachers; one that would increase the interest and engagement of the students towards the learning process, as well as their motivation to study and work. The education-related measures are essential as they would act as a preventative factor falling in the NEET group.

Here is the primary occupations of young people in Bulgaria: 

Profile of the young persons not in employment, education or training:

- The young people in the NEET group are characterized by a clearly defined socio-demographic profile. The majority of them have at most finished secondary education, sometimes not, they predominantly live in small villages where more than half of the population belongs to a minority group.

- Education is the most influential socio-demographic characteristic that determines whether someone will fall into the group of NEETs. The people present are from all educational backgrounds, sometimes they have no level of education. However, a solid part consists of the early school leavers (47%).

- When it comes to ethnicity, NEETs’ structure is dominated by the Roma and Turkish ethnic groups (51%), 46 % are Bulgarian. Ethnicity can be defined as a second factor that influences the chances of falling into the NEET category. The Roma are two times and the Turkish-four times more likely to become a NEET in contrast to the ethnic Bulgarians.

- The majority of NEET people come from small villages. The smaller the place, the higher the percentage of NEETs. The reasons for that can be found among factors such as the continuing depopulation of small villages and their increasingly worsening economic condition. This turns the place of living into the third risk factor that could lead to falling to the group of NEETs.

Percentage of NEETS and unemployment coefficient by regions:

 - With minority groups, gender seems to be an additional factor of risk. As a consequence of communal specifics, the share of women among NEETs is almost 3.5 times, and that of men - 2.3 times higher, in comparison to the ones among the control group (young persons, who are not NEETs). So, girls, especially Roma girls, can be defined as a high-risk group in terms of falling into the category of NEET.

- The NEET group includes several sub-groups with varying degrees of vulnerability, characteristics, and needs. Generally, two main categories can be differentiated – unemployed (55%) and economically inactive (45%). These cover the following sub-groups: unemployed with at least secondary education and experience (15%); unemployed with at least secondary education but without experience (19%); unemployed with lower than secondary education (22%); inactive and social maternity beneficiaries (12%); inactive and not searching for employment (32%). The economically inactive are the highest-risk group in terms of the duration of the NEET status. The unemployed have a better chance to acquire another status. 

Main conclusions and recommendations. Possible solutions to the problem:

The surveys have shown that at national level there is currently no comprehensive policy or set of interventions and measures to tackle the NEET phenomenon.

Division of NEETs according to qualification: 

To tackle the problem, it is necessary to provide effective mechanisms to identify, reach, inform, activate and support NEETs. In general, the following steps are recommended:

- Establishment of a national system for early warning about young people at risk of early school drop out or joining the NEET group. The system should mainly cover schools, but should also operate in partnership with local organizations, representatives of local communities, and the families of children at risk of dropping out;

-  Establishment of a national system for registering and monitoring the development of NEETs.

Data for the system should be fed by municipalities in partnership with schools and other organizations or individuals (e.g. mediators). On the basis of the system, a NEETs "map" should be drawn up to serve for statistically monitoring the group and adequately planning the follow-up steps; 

-Conducting mass-scale information campaigns like "children helping children" with the help of distinguished community members (teachers, librarians, local opinion leaders, mediators) to provide basic information for activating NEETs; 

-Development of a set of specific measures for each of the NEET sub-groups in view of their specific needs and taking into account their demographic characteristics. The measures should also take into account the fact that a large part of NEETs are economically inactive and are not registered at LOs (i.e. other mediators should be appointed to support them);

-Development of a system for monitoring and evaluation of the effect, effectiveness and impact of NEET policies and measures.

About UNICEF   
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

For more information:   
Ivaylo Spasov, Communication Consultant (Copywriter), UNICEF Bulgaria    
tel.: 0888 40 63 83, E-mail: ispasov@unicef.org


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.