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Reform Support
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Supporting reforms to strengthen labour markets social protection systems, and migration management

Funding Programme
  • 2020

Reform and design of measures for the inclusion of inactive persons in the labour market

In order to facilitate the design and implementation of policies to improve the labour market integration of the inactive population, Bulgaria requested technical support to the European Commission through the former Structural Reform Support Programme (now Technical Support Instrument – TSI). Concretely, the project aimed to improve the National Employment Agency of Bulgaria’s capacity for designing and implementing policies to increase activity rates in the country. 


Bulgaria’s labour market has experienced strong employment growth over the last decade. Employment rates are significantly higher today than before the Great Recession and the unemployment rate fell to 4.2% in 2019, reaching its lowest level in decades. Although the COVID-19 crisis has affected the Bulgarian economy, the country has been relatively successful in mitigating the labour market impact of the crisis. Despite the resilience of the Bulgarian labour market, challenges remain. In 2019, 27% of the working age population remained inactive. This corresponds to more than 1 million individuals of working-age who were neither employed nor actively looking for employment. Some population groups are in particular risk of inactivity, including people living in rural areas, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and young people. 

Support delivered

Technical support was provided by way of the following outputs: 

  • Comprehensive overview of the profile of the inactive and population in Bulgaria, to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of the inactive and unemployed, risk factors and dynamics.
  • Assessment of institutional framework and current policies for inactive persons (including recommendations for improved outreach strategies and design, delivery and organisational set-up of Active Labour Market Policies - ALMPs).
  • Proposal for a revamped strategy to improve the activation of inactive persons through better-targeted and more effective ALMPs, detailing i) strategies and measures; ii) actors and responsibilities; iii) strategic goals and iv) a monitoring mechanism.
  • Research notes / workshops on innovative ways of funding and delivering ALMP, including innovative employer engagement measures, payment-by-result schemes, public-private partnerships and contracting-out. 
  • Study visit to another EU country, with proven experience implementing an innovative approaches to support the activation of the inactive and unemployed population.
  • International workshop and recommendations on innovative policies/approaches for reaching out and serving the inactive people at the National Employment Agency, based on international good practice. 
  • Action plan containing a high level description of the measures agreed during the workshop, and detailing the steps necessary to design, adapt and implement the measures, and reflect these in the National Employment Agency’s performance management framework.
  • Desing and delivery of trainings to job counsellors employed at the Agency, on the topic of individualised employment support, inter-agency cooperation, psychosocial counselling, diversity and inclusion, and employer outreach. 
  • Pilot proposal and implementation plan to promote and test innovative solutions to the labour market integration of inactive persons. 

Results achieved

As a result of the project, the Bulgarian authorities developed a better understanding of who the inactive population are, the labour market barriers they face, and how they may be best served through strengthened policies and institutions to tackle inactivity and unemployment. 

Furthermore, the project equipped the National Employment Agency in Bulgaria with concrete knowledge on how innovative funding and delivery mechanisms for ALMPs can support its work. Such innovative approaches could include contracted-out services, social impact bonds, other types of public-private partnerships and new ways to reach out to employers. In addition, as a final result of this project, the National Employment Agency in Bulgaria is currently in a position to implement the measures contained within the proposed Action Plan, including concrete implementation measures, thereby increasing its capacity to reach out to and serve the inactive population.

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