12. Bulgaria

This country profile highlights recent policy actions related to supporting women, youth, seniors and immigrants in entrepreneurship. It also benchmarks recent self-employment and inclusive entrepreneurship indicators for Bulgaria against the average for the European Union.

Overall entrepreneurship conditions remain challenging. New start-ups face above average levels of administrative burden due to lengthy processes and access to finance is challenging for entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurship support mainly consists of general financing and training schemes, a small number of tailored entrepreneurship support schemes are in place. European Structural and Investment Funds remain a critical support for policies and programmes in this area. There is a fairly comprehensive support system for young entrepreneurs. Tailored training and mentoring are also available for women entrepreneurs; however, the Strategy for Promoting Women Entrepreneurship is still under development.

The early-stage entrepreneurship rate was slightly below the EU average for the 2016-20. This gap was greatest among youth (5% in Bulgaria vs. 7% in the EU). Moreover, a high proportion of these early-stage entrepreneurship activities were driven by a lack of other opportunities in the labour market, notably among seniors (36%) and women (33%). Eliminating all of the gaps in entrepreneurship activity rates across population groups (i.e. applying the early-stage entrepreneurship rate of men who are 30-49 years old to the whole population) would result in an additional 106 000 entrepreneurs. About 60% of these “missing” entrepreneurs are female, nearly 60% are over 50 years old and another 15% are youth (20-29 years old).

Self-employment levels were below the EU average over the past decade. Women (7%) and seniors (12%) were less likely to be self-employed than the respective EU average (10% for women and 17% for seniors). However, the self-employed were more likely to employ others (35% vs. 30%), including a higher proportion of self-employed women relative to the EU average (30% vs. 24%).

Nearly 80% of companies reported direct or indirect losses due to the COVID-19 crisis so several financial measures were implemented to support the self-employed and micro businesses. For example, the “60/40” programme provided subsidies ranging from BGN 3 000 to BGN 10 000 (EUR 1 530 to EUR 5 110) to businesses experiencing turnover loss of at least 20% from the previous year. Due to high demand, the fund was increased by BGN 20 million (EUR 10.2 million). Freelance and independent artists could receive financial support of up to BGN 1 000 per month (EUR 510). A range of other measures for SMEs was made available, including a special agricultural programme which provided BGN 70 million (EUR 35 million) in funding to around 30 000 farmers from August to November 2020.

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