In last years the subject of immigration as a way to change your life is widely discussed. I don’t mean to say that it was not an important subject before, however, today we can observe the consequences of change in all political regimes as well as the welcoming of democracy in some countries. It is spoken more and more how the world is a free place and anyone could change the direction of their life specifically with the legal travel to everywhere. Bulgaria is a small country with great richness, beautiful nature and not so well established political life. A high percent of the young people leave to work abroad after graduation for the simple reason that they do not see a reason to stay – they can’t find jobs for their qualification, the conditions in the country are absurd and the life abroad seems of much better quality. Lots of families who live in Bulgaria do not lead a normal life – they just survive. This is why in the emblematic 1990 with the wide opening to the outside world a great percentage of the Bulgarian community found a chance to leave the country. A great part of these people left to Greece – a sea country, providing a wide variety of job opportunities. This is a short record which we found on the website of the Ministry of labour and social policy of the Bulgarian republic:
‘Bulgarian migration in Greece is one of the largest in the EU countries. It was slowly created in the past 20 years, it harmonically fitted in the Greek community and a great part of it had permanently stayed in the country. Our countrymen started coming to Greece in 1991, firstly for seasonal work and after 1994 more and more stayed at permanent positions, mostly in Northern Greece. The Economic crisis in 1997 caused a great emigration wave between 1998 and 2003. It is considered that in this period the Bulgarians are around 70 000 and the seasonal workers are around 50 000. They are mainly established around the continental part of the country and some of the largest islands. The second wave between 2005 and 2011 is related to Bulgaria joining the EU and the fall of the visas requirement. The informal records of the Greek police reveals that the Bulgarians living in the country are around 200 000 – 120 000 of which permanent residents and 80 000 seasonal workers. The Bulgarians are the second largest foreign community in the country after the Albanian. According to the Center for research of the working force in Greece two thirds of the Bulgarian citizens in Greece are women, with High School education. The women mainly work in the trading industry, services industry, and hospitality as well as housemaids. The men work in the construction industry, tourism and the agriculture. Our compatriots are well accepted in Greece and preferred by the employers. The opinion about them is that they have a great professional presentation and are responsible and well presented. This is the reason why despite the unemployment – 26.6% , there are no big groups of people returned back to Bulgaria.
These short records begin to shape the picture of the emigration – a demand for a better pay, and as well as the economic circumstances that lead to this situation there are other reasons for emigration – personal, professional, educational. After talking to several Bulgarian employers abroad and looking at several of articles in newspapers we can draft a rough profile of the Bulgarian emigration in Greece (including age, reasons, marital status, education and others). Taking to an account the lack of confirmed facts due to the knowledge that many of the people did not register or the institutions did not keep an updated record, it is worth saying that the attempt for profiling was based on research of different sources. These are the main groups we categorized:
- Almost 60% are women in the age of 30-45 years old. The age distribution depends on the country of interest, the jobs it can offer and easily accessible positions. In Greece there is a lot of work for housemaids, nannies and in the tourism.
- The largest percent of leaving people are aged between 25 and 50 years old – around 60%. After a short research through interviews and conversations becomes clear that these are mainly women looking to financially support their families. A smaller percent are young, independent people persuading a professional development.
- A large percent of the migrants have families, however, they are alone in the country acceptor (at least during the first year of their migration). The women in Greece are mainly unmarried, widowed or divorced. The presence of a family is overlooked as a factor suppressing the migration while the lack of one seems to have the opposite effect.
- The average stay is between 3-4 years and different factors affect the decision whether the stay to be exceeded or not. Among them the most important are: the availability of work in the accepting country, the economic situation in Bulgaria, how easy is to stay in the country – policies regarding the status of emigrants etc., family and health reasons.
- The emigrants send up to 40% of their earnings back to Bulgaria – as mentioned before the reasons for leaving on a first place are usually financial support to the family. So it is not surprising that the emigrants are sending money back. Its effect is elaborated below.
- The main reason to leave the country is the low wedge which is insufficient to support a family – most of the migrants have had a job in Bulgaria before they made the decision to leave. To a certain degree this have supported financially the period before settling down in Greece and the money needed for a travel.
- Most of the people have a High School education – despite the overall perception that the emigrants are uneducated. A higher level of skills and education are usually not required due to the strong emigration communities, which provide information and help. Another reason is that at the beginning the emigrants usually work in the non-formal sector.
- Most of the current emigrants are working in the Services industry – agriculture, trade, hotels, infrastructure and service. All these sectors have a history of being informal in South Europe, and they become the main sectors for illegal emigration work. Also, the small companies and the intervals of seasons with high economic activity are typical for the countries of acceptance.
- A small part of the emigrants are self-employed, the higher percentage id in Greece and during the last year it slowly increases. The reasons for this is that the self-employment allows for a greater flexibility as well as less legal control.
Without a doubt most of the people were forced to leave the country and become emigrants due to the worsened economic situation in Bulgaria in the early 90s.