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2021, vol. 55, br. 1, str. 174-194
Mogućnosti prevazilaženja pandemije Covid-19 - sociološka analiza
University of National and World Economy, Faculty of General Economics, Economic Sociology Department, Sofia, Bulgaria
Ključne reči: Covid-19; kriza; mogućnosti; antikrizne mere
Antikrizne mere vlade predstavljene su kao mogućnost regulisanja i upravljanja bugarskom ekonomijom i društvom tokom krize Covid-19. Efekti sprovođenja ovih mera radi pomoći i podrške bugarskim poslodavcima i nezaposlenim licima u reagovanju na krizu dati su na osnovu empirijskih metoda.


The outbreak of Covid-19 has created prerequisites for reconsidering people's way of life, reevaluating values, concepts, managerial strategies, ideologies and policies, it has redirected the focus of attention from the modern to the traditional, from global to regional and local, from European and global identity to ethnic culture and national identity (Boyadzhieva, 2020; Cogan, 2020). This is why the fast metamorphoses of the spirit and the way of thinking allow scholars to define it as a new 21st century crisis. As any other crisis, this one also causes both risks and provides opportunities to find ways to overcome it. The risks disclose the influences (effects, risks) the Bulgarian society, and not only it, is facing1. The influences differ in content and nature and lead to diverse consequences. Their content aspect includes the individuals, their families, relatives and friends, on the one hand, and on the other, all government, municipal, private enterprises and companies2. According to their nature, the influences function as incentives to stimulate the activity of the authorities related to formulating policies to support people and businesses and fighting the illness and its spread.

The main aim of the present report is to reveal the government's anti-crisis measures as possibilities to regulate and manage the economy and the society during the Covid-19 crisis and by using empirical methods to disclose the effects (results, benefits) of their impact on the support provided to employers and the unemployed in Bulgaria during the crisis.

To achieve this aim the following tasks should be approached:

  1. To analyse the governmental anti-crisis measures in Bulgaria as a possible way to overcome the pandemic.

  2. Using empirical approach to disclose the effects (benefits, results) of the implementation of the government’s measures concerning the unemployed and the employers in Bulgaria during the period under consideration

The sociological understanding about Covid-19 interprets it as a new type of contagious disease which is caused by a virus, spreads very fast globally and causes diverse social consequences (effects) and an overall change in people's lives. Due to the adverse impact the virus has on the economies and societies and because of the pace and scale at which it spreads, the governments of different countries are forced to undertake anti-crisis measures to cope with it (Stoyanova, 2014). These measures present ways out of the crisis the economies and the societies are going through during the Covid-19 pandemic, acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Possibilities for Dealing with the Crisis

The possibilities embody the ways to handle the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic both by individuals and legal entities. They include social and economic measures implemented by the government, the public financial resources for their implementation, the government's capacity to govern in times of crisis, stringent control over the distribution, redistribution and absorption of the provided financial and nonfinancial support etc.

As a whole, the possibilities which physical bodies (social measures which can in principle be defined as "soft" social policy and soft measures) have for handling the negative consequences of the Covid-19 crisis can be grouped in four areas.

The first area refers to extending funds to stimulate and retain the people employed in organisations, enterprises and companies. In the beginning of the pandemic the Bulgarian government undertook a series of measures which aimed to support the people directly involved in containing the pandemic and its consequences. In August 2020 the government extended the period during which some of the initial social measures were in force and implemented new ones which involved a 30% increase in the remuneration of all employed in spheres closely related to the containment of the Covid-19 crisis, including the ones working on the front line. Along with that the medical staff involved in the fight against Covid-19 received additional net payment to the amount of 1 000 lev (further BGN 67 mln were earmarked); travel vouchers for 210 lev for 7 nights in the government tourist sector. Another measure implemented in the same period concerned the salaries of social workers, employment intermediaries, labour inspectors and other workers in the system of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy which were increased by 30% as of August 1st 2020. There was also an increase in the payment for night shifts of those working on the front line and the overtime pay for people working at some ministries – Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Ministry of Interior, and other institutions – The National Health Insurance Fund, the National Insurance Institute and others (Sega newspaper, 5.05.2020). In order to implement all those measures the 2021 State Budget Act envisions BGN 237 mln for the increase of the remuneration of health workers, as well as 15% increase of the payment of the workers at the MoI.

The second area includes measures to offset the decrease in the income of people whose opportunity to work was taken away because of the pandemic by offering them the possibility to take out interest-free loans to the amount of BGN 4 500; an increase in the monthly unemployment benefits from 9 lev to 12 lev a day as of October 1st 2020 and others. There was an increase in the standards set for financing the social services delegated by the government (to the amount of BGN 24.6 mln.) which provides possibilities for raising the remuneration of those involved in providing such services (social workers, rehabilitators, speech therapists, tutors and others).

The third area includes possibilities for supporting the most vulnerable social groups-pensioners, extremely poor, people with disabilities and others. Government support includes an increase of 6.7% of pensions as of July 1st 2020 (the minimum pension became BGN 250) and an additional monthly sum of BGN 50 for all pensioners (for the period between August and October 2020). The government adopted a decision for the official recalculation of the period of social security insurance for pensioners at the time of rewarding the pension and after its latest recalculation. The payments for people with disabilities were increased-payment for personal assistants under the Personal Assistance Act (further BGN 122 mln were given) and the increase of payments for people with disabilities; the validity of the expert decisions, granted by the Labour Expert Medical Commissions and the National Expert Medical Commissions was extended, all social payments are guaranteed (including the one-off grants). This is the area which also includes help for people in need (elderly, people with disabilities, people whose income is below the poverty line) by providing warm lunch and patronage care and the "Warm lunch" programme for the people in need is to continue in 2021. In October 2020 The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Agency for Social Assistance organized a campaign to provide essential food packages to over 146 000 Bulgarians and their families and by the end of November the people who will have received assistance will amount to 470 000. It is envisaged that by the end of 2020 "The warm lunch in an emergency" programme will continue to provide warm lunch to over 26 000 Bulgarians in need and the "Public canteens" programme to another 4 000 people – people with disabilities.

The fourth area refers to providing finance and measures to benefit Bulgarian families. These measures include one-off help (to the amount of 375 lev) to families with children of up to 14 years of age; monthly help for families with children of up to 14 years who study from home and do not attend school or kindergarten because of the Covid-19 crisis (the maximum amount per month for one child is 610 lev, for two and more childre – 915 lev); assistance for childcare by providing babysitters – under the "Parents in employment" project at the Employment Agency; one-off help (to the amount of 250 lev) for students who enrolled in the academic 2020-2021; the requirements for vaccination and medical checks for children as a condition for receiving monthly help for raising a child up to 1 year, as well as for receiving children allowances (COVID-19. Unified Information Portal), were removed.

The second wave of Covid-19 gave reasons for adopting additional social measures as of January 1st 2021. They concern the increase of the minimum wage (650 lev); the minimum pension (300 lev); the minimum working hour rate (3.92 lev). The adopted maximum pension becomes 1 440 lev and as of July 1st 2021-the pensions which were awarded prior to the end of 2020 will go up by 5%.

From the start of the pandemic the Bulgarian government adopted a number of economic measures which provide different possibilities for legal entities3 – state-owned, municipal, private enterprises, companies etc. The main goal of these measures is to mitigate the unfavourable aftermaths of Covid-19. The possibilities provided by the government for the legal entities can also be grouped together in four areas.

The first area includes the provision of finance for extending loans: loans for micro and social enterprises (up to BGN 50 000); micro loans for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals (up to BGN 50 000); unsecured loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (up to BGN 300 000); loans for small and medium enterprises with subsidised interest (up to BGN 3.6 mln.)-retaining employment during the crisis; loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (up to BGN 3.6 mln.); investment and working capital loans for urban development (up to BGN 40 mln. per municipality, public-private partnerships or enterprises) etc. It should be pointed out that there are possibilities for entrepreneurs too (especially in the field of innovations and digitalization) which can help the economic recovery-a measure for capital investments amounting to BGN 150 mln targeted at small and medium enterprises with focus on start-ups and innovative enterprises.

The second area concerns measures introduced to support small, medium-sized and larger enterprises by providing free help. This measure is aimed to preserve employment and guarantee the incomes of both working people and enterprises. The main measure to preserve employment is the "60/40" mechanism where the government covers 60% of the social security income of employees and of the social security contributions owed by the employer. As of October the businesses can use reliefs when applying for this measure. The aim of this measure is to preserve employment and to guarantee the incomes of the employees. In the sector of tourism this measure is transformed to "80/20". Other measures are: "3-10" measure-support ranging from BGN 3 thousand to 10 thousand for micro and small enterprises, direct free payments for medium-sized enterprises by providing operational capital from BGN 30 thousand up to 150 thousand; payment of compensations to the amount of BGN 290 per month for each retained worker in the sectors of tourism, hospitality and transport (applications for retaining more than 26 thousand jobs were submitted at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy by the beginning of October); subsidy for the minimum payment is provided for enterprises which take on unemployed people for a period of 3 months under the "Employment for You" programme. In response to the second Covid-19 wave, further economic measures were introduced in November 2020. One of them is the "Keep me" project (as of November 30 th) targeting employers who temporarily stopped their activity due to the imposed anti-epidemic measures. This measure aims to support people working in bars, restaurants, cafes, language and educational centres, training centres, hairdressers and cosmetic salons and others who were forced to use their unpaid leave.

In the period between November 6th and 20th 2020 the Ministry of Economy reported progress in supporting Bulgarian businesses to overcome the negative impact of the pandemic. The progress consisted in extending over BGN 400 mln (part of the anti-crisis package of the Ministry) to the Bulgarian companies and citizens. By November 19th 2020 a financial grant to the amount of BGN 173 mln was extended to nearly 21 190 project proposals which were approved under the "Support for micro and small enterprises for overcoming the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic" procedure. The budget of the procedure will be increased to the amount of BGN 225 mln where the additional BGN 52 mln were provided as an anti-crisis measure aiming to guarantee the liquidity of micro, small and medium enterprises which were hit by the emergency situation and the Covid-19 pandemic (Ministry of Economy).

Other measures provided by the government concern the postponement of the payment of corporate tax until June 30th 2020 (for the year 2019); lowering the rate of the value added tax to 9% until the end of 2021 for the hospitality business, books and baby foods. In August this year the scope of the decreased value added tax was expanded to include wine, beer, tour operators and non-business travel, fitness halls and sports amenities. It is important to mention the "Children's areas" procedure under Operational Programme "Human Resources Development". It involves the creation of children's areas at the workplace to provide the possibility for getting services for the children of the employees. This measure provides social benefits for employees and an opportunity to create new jobs for unemployed people who have to take care of their children.

According to data provided by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy businesses in Bulgaria received over BGN 585 mln under the 60/40 mechanism (by the start of December 2020). Some 250 000 jobs were preserved. According to the analysis of the National Insurance Institute, some 9 000 companies benefited during the first stage of the measure (March-June), 5 241 companies received help during the second stage (July-September) and during the third one (October-December), the one operating currently, 2 661 companies received support (this is an ongoing measure and 4 872 companies whose documentation is being processed, are awaiting approval).

The third area includes granting government help to the enterprises in the processing industry. This support makes it possible to cover part of the expenditure of the enterprises related to transport, logistics, storing ready products and other operations concerning 2020 fruit and vegetable harvest processing, as well as support for livestock breeders and potato producers.

The fourth one concerns extraordinary empowerment of employers in terms of: introducing work from home/distance form of work, 10-day paid annual leave without the need for getting employee's agreement etc.; imposing quarantine and closing kindergartens, schools and universities and introducing distance form of teaching.

Unfortunately, the economic measures did not lead to the expected results. This is evidenced in the study of the National Statistical Institute where it is pointed out that 41.7% of the studied non-financial enterprises reported a decrease in the revenue from sales of goods and services in November 2020 and merely 9.8% took advantage of the government measures implemented to support employers (NSI, 2020). The reasons for the low proportion of employers who have received a state subsidy under these anti-crisis measures are related mainly to the inability of companies to meet the required application criteria. They appear to be the restrictive conditions for many of them. These are: the companies not to have been in difficulty as of 31.12.2019; to have paid workers' social security contributions; to have at least two completed financial years (2018 and 2019) before the date of notification of the procedure within which they have carried out business; to have suffered a decrease of at least 20% in their turnover for April 2020 compared to the average monthly turnover in 2019, with a minimum turnover of applicants for 2019 – BGN 30 000; the maximum grant amount should not exceed a certain percentage (depending on the sector) of the turnover generated by the applying company for 2019; restrictions on sectors that can apply, etc. Other reasons to be noted are: the high degree of bureaucracy of application procedures, employers' distrust of the effectiveness and efficiency of measures, delays in paying compensations, etc.

The fast rate of Covid-19 spread urged the European Commission to create a new financial instrument, called Next Generation EU. It envisages funds amounting to almost € 750 billion aimed to finance measures to overcome the consequences of the coronavirus crisis in the following three areas: providing support to member countries for their recovery; stimulating the economy and the private investments and learning the lessons of the crisis. In the context of this instrument the Bulgarian government started the implementation of the National Recovery and Sustainability Plan of Bulgaria (until 2026) which includes four main pillars – Innovative Bulgaria, Green Bulgaria, Connected Bulgaria and Fair Bulgaria. How will this plan function? It remains to be seen and evaluated in the future.

Effects from Implementing Government Policies

To determine the effects of the government's anti-crisis measures concerning employers and the unemployed a secondary analysis of data provided by the Empirical Sociological Study "Social Effects of the Implementation of Policies Aimed to Deal with COVID-19 crisis" (Kineva, 2020) was carried out between October 18th and December 16th 2020 including 256 respondents from 31 settlements in Bulgaria. This study is not representative and the selection of the respondents was based on the principle of accessibility and the principle of willingness to participate. The analysis of the results from the study shows the opinions and assessments made by unemployed people and employers referring to the efficiency of the implemented government policies concerning individuals and legal entities in Bulgaria in times of Covid-19. These conclusions are valid solely for the studied sample and cannot be generalized.

Effects for the unemployed

The results illustrate the degree of awareness of the unemployed about the anti-epidemic measures, about the government social and economic measures implemented to fight Covid-19 and about the possibilities they have to participate in those measures.

The research data show that all unemployed are aware of the anti-epidemic measures but only half of them (54%) follow all instructions (including wearing masks, personal hygiene, physical distance etc.) in order to protect themselves from infection with the coronavirus. Furthermore, they say that they avoid big gatherings, socialize with a limited number of people, wear masks in closed and open spaces, use disinfectants on a regular basis, observe high personal hygiene, and some people say that they eat healthy food to develop strong immunity. Every fifth person in the group of the unemployed (21%) states that they keep only physical distance and limit social contacts as much as possible. Some 15% of the unemployed state that another measure which they implement is making their parents stay at home to avoid contracting the virus. It turns out that each in every ten unemployed people does not observe any measures aimed at protecting from contracting Covid-19.

As far as the degree to which the unemployed are informed about the government anti-crisis measures (economic and social), however, an extremely disturbing situation was observed. When asked "What government programmes aimed at dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in Bulgaria are you aware of?" a third of the unemployed admit that they do not know about such programmes run by the Bulgarian government (33%), and also that they are not interested in them (5%). The remaining 62% claim that they know about such programmes, the most popular of which is the "60/40" mechanism according to the majority of the respondents (47%) which is due to the fact that the mass media promote it from the very beginning of the pandemic; 3.2% of the respondents say that they are aware of the BGN 4 500 interest-free loans and the same percentage know about the one-off help to the amount of 375 lev for families with children. Other measures that a small share of the unemployed are aware of are the increase of the minimum unemployment benefit from 9 lev to 12 lev; an allowance of 50 lev for all pensioners; lower value added tax; support for small and medium-sized enterprises and others (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Anti-crisis measures awareness (% unemployed respondents)
Графикон 1.
Свест о антикризним мерама (% незапослених испитаника)

This data can be observed in yet another indicator related to the inclusion of the unemployed in the anti-crisis measures undertaken by the Bulgarian government. It becomes clear that the people who took advantage of the anti-crisis measures and the national programmes are merely 17%,4.5% of the unemployed received monthly financial support for families with children of up to 14 years; 1.5% participated in the BGN 4 500 interest-free loan programme; and 2% participated in the "Employment for You" measure. Although the increased minimum unemployment benefit is a measure which is applicable for everyone – only 9% identify it and define it as a government programme fighting against Covid-19 crisis. It turns out that the main consequence of their participation in the anti-crisis measures is the support for the family budget (payment of bills and loan repayment) and "making both ends meet" (an unemployed woman, age 57).

In this context it should be noted that there are two main reasons – low degree of awareness and people's unwillingness to apply. There are other reasons which lead to the limited participation in the anti-crisis measures and programmes. One of these is the high criteria and requirements to the applicants. According to one of the respondents "the institutions demand too much from people who want to apply for support". One out of ten unemployed says they applied but were not approved. Another reason given by one out of ten respondents is the problem with the preparation of the set of documents needed for the application process which unemployed people see as a barrier to getting access to the programmes aimed at providing support. The distrust in the anti-crisis measures and the government is also another reason for people's unwillingness to participate – it is expressed by 8% of the respondents. They say that "the money and help are given to figureheads and cronies (an unemployed man, age 51), "nothing is actually given to people in need" (an unemployed woman, age 37), and "I do not believe that they will pay me enough attention" (an unemployed man, age 24).

Effects for employers To what degree are employers aware of the government programmes aimed at dealing with the negative consequences of the pandemic? The data in Chart 2 show a worrisome picture of the impact of the pandemic on companies.

Chart 2 Impact of the pandemic on businesses (% of employers)
Графикон 2
Утицај пандемије на пословање (% послодаваца)

It becomes obvious that one tenth of all employers are not aware that there are such anti-crisis measures and national programmes. There are employers who took advantage of the lower value added tax and the postponement of the payment of the corporate tax but they do not realize that these are part of the ongoing measures and this is the reason why they say that they are not aware of such measures.

One fifth of the employers do not provide an answer to the question "What government programmes aimed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in Bulgaria are you aware of?". Over half of the employers (57%) say that they know about the "60/40" mechanism; merely 6% are informed about the anti-crisis programme aimed to provide support for the small and medium enterprises; 1.6% say that they are familiar with the reduction in the value added tax, the postponement of the payment of the corporate tax and the monthly subsidy for preserving jobs to the amount of 290 lev; 2.4% mention other programmes.

Although they are partially informed about the existence of measures aimed to overcome the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the predominant part of employers do not make use of them. The reasons for that are, on the one hand, objective – distrust in the efficiency of the measures, doubts concerning the possibilities for companies to receive in practice support from the state and concerns related to the bureaucracy associated with the application procedures. The data in Table 1 show that only one fifth of the employers actually make use of the "60/40" mechanism, 14% made use of the lower value added tax, every ten employer chose to postpone the payment of the corporate tax, 8% received support for small enterprises, 4% made use of the support provided for medium enterprises etc.

Table 1. Participation of companies in the government anti-crisis measures (% of employers)
Табела 1. Учешће компанија у владиним антикризним мерама (% послодаваца)

60/40 mechanism /
механизам 60/40
19 71 10
Postponement of the payment of the corporation tax until June 30th 2020 /
Одложено плаћање пореза на добит предузећа до 30. јуна 2020.
11 77 12
Support for small enterprises /
Подршка малим предузећима
8 81 11
Support for medium-sized enterprises /
Подршка средњим предузећима
4 84 12
Lowering VAT to 9% (for hospitality services, books and baby foods) /
Смањење ПДВ-а на 9% (за угоститељске услуге, књиге и храну за бебе)
14 73 13
Subsidy for minimum salary for a three-month period for hiring unemployed people /
Субвенције за минималну плату током тромесечног периода приликом ангажовања незапослених лица
6 78 16
Monthly subsidy of up to BGN 290 for each preserved job in the sectors of tourism, hospitality and others /
Месечна субвенција до 290 лева за свако сачувано радно место у сектору туризма, угоститељства итд.
3,2 79 18

Employers say that the money they received under those programmes mostly helped them to retain their employees since that money was used to cover the labour expenses and to pay company expenditures – for instance, bills, rent etc.

In conclusion it can be summed up that according to employers the pandemic caused shocks in the companies included in the study, but they affected the business to different degrees and in different areas. The small and medium enterprises were hit the hardest and the big ones – the least. The negative consequences of the crisis can be mostly seen in the small companies, or the so called "small business". The pandemic also had a stimulating impact on some of the companies (12%) which in fact chose to look for new opportunities in state of emergency.

Instead of conclusion

Despite all anti-crisis measures undertaken by the government, a growing crisis persists in Bulgaria – higher unemployment, marked poverty and social inequality, growing discontent and tension in the society. As the Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) Radosvet Radev says – there are three overlapping crisis in the society – pandemic and political ones which have been developing over the past nine months and the looming economic one4.

The results from the empirical study illustrate the inactive participation of the unemployed and the employers in the anti-crisis measures. The main reasons for the situation are as follows – insufficient awareness, distrust in the government and the government measures which "are partial and inconsistent", complex application procedures as well as the lack of experience in functioning in a state of pandemic.

The secondary data analysis of the empirical study conducted by the author shows that the anti-crisis measures are short-term, aimed mostly at limiting the loss of jobs and preserving employment. At the moment there are no policies which aim at stimulating investments, entrepreneurship (new niches), innovation, human capital development, as well as creating efficient organization and restructuring of the work process (including work from home) which are particularly important for the recovery of the Bulgarian economy after the pandemic.


1Kineva, T. A report on the topic of risks, presented at a National Discussion “Socio economic issues in Bulgaria in times of COVID-19 pandemic crisis, 15. 12. 2020, Sofia. The discussion was organized by the Union of Economists in Bulgaria and section “Sociology” at the Union of Scientists in Bulgaria.
2For brevity the terms individuals and legal entities will be used in the text.
3Strict social policy or tough measures.
4The economic autumn and the labour market: what is ahead? Accessible at https://www.bia-bg. com/news/view/27526/(4.12.2020)


Boyadzhieva, N. (2020). Truths, fiction and hypotheses about COVID-19. Sofia: Publishing house Zheni Hadzhiivanova. [In Bulgarian].
Cogan, I. (2020). The virus that changed our lives: COVID-19 and other infections. Sofia: Paritet. [In Bulgarian].
Kineva, T. (2020). Empirical sociological study: 'Social Effects of the Implementation of Policies Aimed to Deal with COVID-19 Crisis', Oct 18 – Dec 16 2020. [In Bulgarian].
Stoyanova, M. (2014). Conflicts through the prism of sociology. Sofia: Publishing complex - UNWE. [In Bulgarian].
Boyadzhieva, N. (2020) Truths, fiction and hypotheses about COVID-19. Sofia: Publishing house Zheni Hadzhiivanova, [In Bulgarian]
Cogan, I. (2020) The virus that changed our lives: COVID-19 and other infections. Sofia: Paritet, [In Bulgarian]
Kineva, T. (2020) Empirical sociological study: 'Social Effects of the Implementation of Policies Aimed to Deal with COVID-19 Crisis'. Oct 18-Dec 16 [In Bulgarian]
Stoyanova, M. (2014) Conflicts through the prism of sociology. Sofia: Publishing complex - UNWE, [In Bulgarian]

O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: izvorni naučni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg55-30310
primljen: 13.01.2021.
revidiran: 25.03.2021.
prihvaćen: 25.03.2021.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 16.04.2021.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
Creative Commons License 4.0

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