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Bulgarian Diaspora Grows as Home Population Keeps Shrinking

Remittances from foreign-based workers are vital to the nation’s economy. 26 November 2015

More Bulgarians work abroad than at home, new data indicate.


The state-run Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) revealed the figures at a meeting of Bulgarian journalists from around the world in Athens earlier this month, Novinite reported.


The domestic work force numbers 2.2 million, while 2.5 million Bulgarian-born people are working abroad, data from the National Statistical Institute and the Economics Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Science show.


That work force is part of a diaspora the Foreign Ministry estimates at 3 million, many of whom have left since the end of communism 25 years ago, Novinite says.


Emigration rates have fallen significantly since the 1990s. In this decade, the number of emigrants has ranged between 13,000 and 24,000 annually, a BTA official said. Fifty-five percent of recent emigrants were aged between 20 and 29.


  • The 2011 census showed that the country’s population, which was close to 9 million in 1985, had slumped to 7,365,000 owing to low birth rates and high emigration.


  • The negative population trend is in line with demographics in other underdeveloped EU countries, TOL’s Boyko Vassilev wrote in 2011, when some pessimists said the population might drop below 5 million by 2050.  


  • Remittances totaled 12.2 billion leva ($6.6 billion) in the 2004-13 decade, Novinite reported last year. However, remittance data compiled by the central bank are likely to significantly underestimate the real economic contribution by the diaspora, as the figures only include bank transfers of more than 2,500 euros and do not include direct cash transfers.


  • In the same period, 7.7 billion euros ($8.1 billion) was injected into the economy by Dutch companies, representing the single largest source of foreign direct investment.


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