The desire for a positive work-life balance is a major concern in modern society. However, it has been put under pressure by the aging society, economic downturn and current trends in family formation. It is very difficult in Bulgaria to balance the time between work, family and social responsibilities. According to the Bulgarian National Working Conditions Survey undertaken by Eurofound, 13% of Bulgarians have an ongoing struggle to balance work with their personal lives.
The number of men in this group is twice as high as the number of women. The main difficulties are long working hours and incompatibility of partners’ work schedules, as well as overall fatigue and the need for more rest. 43.5% of employed people consider that the reconciliation of work and personal life requires additional effort on the part of the individual and thus leads to greater stress. One in three employees works more than 45 hours and 50% work at least two Saturdays each month. The situation is especially challenging for women and the number of women who are working over 48 hours a week is very close to the number of men. In general, the dual income household model prevails.
In Bulgaria, women take more responsibility for the housework, childcare and care of elderly relatives when compared to men. Flexible working arrangements are not common practice and people in Bulgaria face a lot of difficulties maintaining a work-life balance, which influences their satisfaction with their quality of life. Almost 60% of Bulgarians consider that work is more important than free time.
A low tax rate and improving working conditions is beginning to improve the work-life balance. In Bulgaria, income tax is based on a flat rate of 10%, which is automatically deducted from each person’s pay every month. Working conditions have developed much in recent years with progressive legislation and bilateral improvements in the health care and social security services.
In Bulgaria there are public holidays and many other traditional ones. Saints’ name days are deeply valued and people are very keen on celebrating their name days. Some of the most famous days are St. John’s Day, St. George’s Day, and St. Dimitar’s Day because a lot of people are named after these saints.
The holidays that Bulgarians celebrate most are Christmas and Easter, which are big family celebrations where everyone gets together for eating and drinking. Other holidays that are highly recognised are Mother’s Day, All Soul’s Day and Lent.
- March 3rd – The day Bulgaria celebrates its liberation from 500 years of Ottoman domination (1393-1878).
- May 6th – St. George’s Day and the official holiday of the Bulgarian Аrmy.
- May 24th – Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature Day. The days of St. Cyril (827-869), who created the Cyrillic alphabet, and St. Methodius (826-884). A beautiful holiday with lots of flowers, music, and joy.
- September 6th – Reunification Day. The day the two parts of Bulgaria, Principality of Bulgaria and East Rumelia (autonomous in the Ottoman Empire) were reunited.
- September 22nd – Independence Day -. Bulgaria’s independence was declared in 1908 in Veliko Tarnovo
- Other national holidays are Labour Day on May 1, and Revival Leaders’ Day (on November 1st) which is an off-day for students, but still a workday.
- Also New Year (January 1) and New Year’s Eve (December 31)
- and Christmas Eve (December 24)
- Christmas (December 25) and Second Day of Christmas on the 26th of December (Bulgarians do not celebrate Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day per se). Gifts are generally exchanged at Christmas.
Another important celebration happens on March 1st, when martenitsas are exchanged as gifts.
This is perhaps the most interesting and anticipated holiday of the year, as it is unique to Bulgaria and is the most positive day for the nation. Martenitsas are red-and-white threads in different forms that are worn as decoration. The traditions associated with March 1st and the martenitsas symbolise optimism and the promise of warmer weather, good health and more smiles. There are a lot of legends about the origin of this celebrated day. Today’s martenitsa is presented in a variety of styles and sizes and usually children compete to see who will get the most. However, the martenitsa always carries the same meaning: a lucky charm to repel evil, a token for good health and a symbol of gratitude. Do not be surprised if you have a business meeting on March 1 and you are presented with martenitsas.
A typical working week is 8 hours a day, 5 days a week starting at between 8am and 9am. In certain cases, employers may require employees to work extended hours on certain days, up to a maximum of a 10 hour day. Employers may compensate overtime worked by allowing employees to take additional time off on other days. In Bulgaria, employers and employees are also free to negotiate terms of the working agreement to allow for part-time work, shift work and other contractual arrangements, within the bounds of the law.
Where employees are working a night shift contract, the length of the normal working week is restricted to 35 hours or 7 hours for each shift. A night shift is defined as work carried out between the hours of 10pm and 6am for minors under the age of 18 and 8pm to 6am for employees.
Within normal working hours employees are entitled to one or more rest periods, which are not included in working hours and meal breaks may not be shorter than 30 minutes.Bulgarians have the choice to work during a public holiday (e.g. Christmas or Easter), if they think it will be beneficial for them.
Banks and offices that work with clients generally open from 9am to 5pm, while there some offices have extended hours and are open from 10am to 10pm. Most shops are open from 9am to 8pm and a lot of them work around the clock.
The work culture in Bulgaria is similar to those of other EU countries. Working conditions and safety are improving with the changes in the legislation and social-security system. The Bulgarian workers today are becoming more punctual and dedicated to their responsibilities at the work place. Many of them participate in long-life learning programmes and trainings.
Although medical doctors in the country are highly qualified, most of the clinics and hospitals in the smaller towns and especially in the rural areas are poorly equipped and maintained. Therefore, medical care does not meet the standards of the countries in Western Europe. As for medical supplies and prescription medications, these are widely available everywhere in the country, but highly specialized treatment can only be obtained in the larger cities in most cases.
All foreigners travelling to Bulgaria may be asked to present a valid proof of health insurance to the Bulgarian border authorities upon entry into the country.
There are two types of health insurance – mandatory and private health insurance. Through the mandatory health insurance system, everyone is guaranteed access to a basic package of medical care services. All Bulgarian citizens are obliged to pay monthly contributions to the national health insurance system. Voluntary health insurance is provided by private companies and anyone who wants to can pay extra money in order to receive additional health care services. This is regulated by the Health Insurance Act, which licenses the private companies and regulates the spending of collected funds.
Health insurance is deducted automatically on a monthly basis from an employee’s gross salary at a fixed rate of 8% up to a ceiling of 2,200 Lev. The 8% is split between the employer and the workers, with the employer paying the greater proportion of 4.8%. In the case of self-employed persons (foreigners included) health insurance is also paid at a rate of 8%, but the individual is responsible for paying both the employer and employee contribution. The unemployed also have to pay a contribution for mandatory health insurance at a rate of 16.80 Lev per month.
Contact information for local health care centres – Local Hospitals and Clinics
The emergency number is 112 in order to contact the ambulance service, fire service and police. English-speaking operators will take your call but it can take 35 min or more for an ambulance to respond, depending on the traffic conditions. If you find yourself with a medical emergency in Sofia, the best option would be to call a taxi and request to be taken to Pirogov. Pirogov hospital is the specialist hospital for treating accidents and emergencies and is the best equipped with modern equipment and highly specialised and experienced medical staff.
Contact information for the best-known hospitals and clinics in Sofia include:
- Specialised Hospital for Emergency Medicine “Pirogov”, (or “Pirogov” only) 21, Totleben Blvd., phone: 915-4411, 915-4290.
- Military Medical Academy 3, St. Georgi Sofiyski Blvd., phone: 922-6000; 922-5731, http://www.vma.bg
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