65.3% of Bulgarian Workers Earn Below Subsistence Level

Finance |Author: Diana Kavardzhikova | April 23, 2024, Tuesday // 10:54|  views


According to recent data from the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB), the financial strain on Bulgarian households continues to intensify. CITUB President Plamen Dimitrov unveiled striking statistics during a press conference, sourced from the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research and Training's (ISSIO) Monitoring of Consumer Prices and Living Wage report as of March 2024.

Dimitrov highlighted that a single working individual requires a net monthly income of BGN 1,454, or BGN 1,873 gross, to sustain life. For a three-member family, comprising two working adults and a child under 14, the necessary net income escalates to BGN 2,616, with a gross income requirement of BGN 1,686 for one working person. Moreover, a single working parent in a family of three must earn a gross income of no less than BGN 3,372 to meet living expenses.

Alarming data reveals that 65.3% of workers fall short of the living wage benchmark. Despite a 14.7% increase in the average insurance income between February 2024 and February 2023, 32.1% of individuals, amounting to 820,000 Bulgarians, earn wages below BGN 1,000.

Dimitrov emphasized the persistent rise in living costs, with quarterly increases of 1.1% and annual hikes of 4.3%. In the period from March 2023 to March 2024, the cost of living surged by BGN 107 for a family of three and by BGN 60 for a single person. Notably, the National Statistical Institute reported a 3% inflation increase between March 2024 and March 2023.

Deputy director of the institute, Violeta Ivanova, provided insights into the factors influencing the living wage adjustments. Notably, a 9% annual increase in oil prices has contributed to inflationary pressure. Additionally, food prices witnessed notable fluctuations, with quarterly growth of 1.7% and annual increases of 4%.

Meat and meat products saw significant annual increases of 6.2%, while bread and bakery products experienced a 4% annual growth. Sugar and chocolate products recorded a growth of 4.2% annually, despite a 7.1% drop in sugar prices. Fruits and vegetables witnessed annual growth of 6.8% and 3.1% respectively.

The prices of services in public catering establishments surged by 8% annually, further adding to consumer burdens. Non-food goods and services reported average quarterly growth of 0.7% and annual growth of 4.5%.

The costs associated with maintaining a home, including heating, lighting, and water, have surged, with home repair expenses witnessing a notable annual increase of 5.1%. Water supply costs have skyrocketed, with a staggering 22.2% rise in the price of drinking water and a 24% increase in sewage fees.

In the energy sector, despite a decrease of -30.9% in natural gas prices for the year, the overall category of "Electricity, gas, etc. fuels" reported an annual growth of 1.9%. Healthcare costs have also surged, with medicines alone witnessing a substantial 6.2% year-on-year increase, along with a 4.5% growth in medical services.

Education, leisure, and entertainment expenses have seen a steady rise, with a 6.9% annual increase reported in these sectors. Transportation costs have surged by 3.3% annually, propelled by a 0.6% increase in fuel prices and an 8% rise in expenses for private car maintenance and repair.

Despite these challenges, Violeta Ivanova, the deputy director of the institute, noted that inflation remains below the high annual levels recorded in previous years. While energy carriers and basic raw materials are stabilizing, there is relative calm in the market prices of some essential goods and services.

However, Lyuboslav Kostov, the Director of the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research and Training, highlighted concerning trends regarding the affordability of basic goods for Bulgarians earning minimum wage. The comparison with neighboring countries reveals that Bulgarians can afford the basic consumer basket the fewest times, indicating a disparity between wage growth and rising living costs.

Compared to the same period in 2023, the number of times the minimum wage can purchase the basket of basic products increased in 2024 in France from 26.7 to 33 times, in neighboring Romania from 11.4 to 15.2 times, and in Croatia from 11.4 to 15.5 times. In Bulgaria, there was also an increase, though at a slower pace, rising from 7.2 times to 8.2 times.

These findings indicate that the growth rate of the minimum wage in Bulgaria is not keeping pace with the rising prices, resulting in an expansion of the working poor category and constraints on consumption.

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Tags: Bulgarians, wage, minimum, BGN


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