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The share of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) in Bulgaria is steadily declining, but it is still above the EU average. As part of the Lost Millennials initiative, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a public forum on 21 November 2023 in Sofia. The aim of the forum was to give visibility to the problem of the inclusion of young people from this group in the labour market. Representatives of the legislature and the executive, the business and civil society sectors took part in the discussions and deliberated about directions and challenges in youth employment policies in the country.

Dr. Alexander Gerganov, Director of the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, opened the forum by raising the issue of the effectiveness of existing programmes and initiatives and pointed out that strategies and policies targeting NEETs are not always specialised according to different key socio-demographic characteristics.

Dr. Lilia Yakova, Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented a detailed analysis of the bridges between education and the labour market and key recommendations for improving policies for NEETs, as well as the evaluation of the implementation of the Career Start Programme.

The participants in the forum agreed that, in order to overcome challenges and increase youth employment in the country, timely and decisive measures are needed.

Highlights from the discussion

Keynote address by Denitsa Sacheva, Chairperson of the National Assembly Committee on Labour, Social and Demographic Policy:

“The issue of young people who neither study nor work is a topic that is periodically being raised in the public space but still fails to enter the political agenda. Henceforth, it does not become a main topic of the institutions and we are still very far from concrete, visible, real results. The number one challenge is to get the institutions in Bulgaria to work together”.

Iskren Angelov, Director of the Labour Market Policy Directorate at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy:

“A large part of the inactive young people do not recognise the inclusion in education or training as an asset that can provide them with better pay, even though they expect to receive it. Only a quarter of NEETs want to study or train. A data-sharing mechanism between 11 institutions has been set up to build a register of NEETs that can be used to create targeted policies. Periodic diagnostic surveys are recommended”.

Tonka Karaivanova, Deputy Director General of the Employment Services Directorate General at the National Employment Agency:

“Unemployed young people up to the age of 29 are the age group with the highest net effect of participation in employment programmes and measures. The bridge to jobs is the transition that links the two stages of young people's lives. The aim is to make them more confident as they move from one stage to the other”.

Georgi Ruychev, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum:

“In addition to the institutions, we need to involve the business and motivate it to hire more young people, which will create conditions for the development of more programmes. Many of our partners have their youth employment programmes that stimulate the recruitment of young people and afterwards employ them as their workers and employees. We need to come together - institutions, NGOs, businesses – in order to achieve more”.

This event is based on findings from research conducted by CSD as part of the ‘Lost Millennials – Transnational Research Network for the Evalution of Initiatives Targeting 25 + NEETs’ project funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.


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