The Bulgarian welfare system

Reforms and their effects on inequalities and vulnerable groups between 1997 and 2018

Authored by: Rumiana Stoilova , Veneta Krasteva

Routledge Handbook of European Welfare Systems

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367259150
eBook ISBN: 9780429290510
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter discusses the reforms carried out in the Bulgarian welfare system between 1997 and 2018. These reforms followed neoliberal ideas of reducing state contributions, decreasing the number of beneficiaries receiving support, prolonging the duration of working careers on the labour market, and shifting from social benefits to activation and social investments. At the start of the investigated period, the reforms were abrupt, as they replaced the system of universal benefits and the state’s monopoly over the distribution of resources. Since 2008, changes in the social sphere have continued to follow the initial ideas in a more gradual way. In 2019, however, big differences between Bulgaria and the old EU member states regarding government social expenditures as a share of GDP remain. Putting economic efficiency on top is leading to high levels of inequality. The reduced capacity of the labour market to ensure sustainable social inclusion, especially of low-educated people, remains an obstacle for society and for economic growth. The analysis indicates that the principle of social investment should continue to be applied and developed in the future, rather than the neoliberal paradigm which requires minimal state involvement.

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