In 2008, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy will prioritize an increase of income and maximizing the intellectual potential of people on the labor market, Bulgarian Labor and Social Policy Minister Emilia Maslarova told a seminar on Saturday.
She said that the official average monthly wage in this country for 2008 will reach some 500 leva, and the minimum wage will be 220 leva. The average monthly pension for 2008 will be 196.40 leva, and the minimum pension will be 112.62 leva. The Ministry is planning a 9.5 per cent rise in pensions as from July 1. Social experts say that 100 employees now maintain 83 pensioners. Two thousand million leva of the national budget will be allocated for payment of pensions. There is a political decision that the retirement age will not be increased this year, Maslarova said.
The Ministry plans a reduction of social insurance contributions by 9 percentage points and optimization of the state administration, through downsizing 12 per cent of the Ministry staff. Maslarova said that a national consultative council on the pension system will be convened shortly, and the social partners will be invited as well.
The Ministry set the monthly poverty threshold for 2008 at 166 leva.
The Ministry expects the employment rate to reach 62 per cent in 2008 (58 per cent for women and 43 per cent for persons aged between 55 and 64), said Deputy Labor and Social Policy Minister Dimiter Dimitrov.
He said that the unemployment rate will fall below 7 per cent this year. According to the National Statistical Institute, 3,209,000 persons aged between 15 and 64 were employed in 2007, the Deputy Minister said.
A national monitoring of specialized institutions for disabled children will be conducted this year, said Deputy Labor and Social Policy Minister Ivanka Hristova.
On funding allocated by the Ministry, 150 children will be placed with foster families, 3,500 children will be placed with immediate and extended family members, and the Child Protection Departments will receive subsidies to examine 2,000 cases.
A total of 6,655,000 leva have been allocated for the program entitled "Child Protection through Transition from Institutional Care to Alternative Care in a Family Environment."
Another project of the Ministry, to be financed by 40 million euro borrowed from the World Bank, targets social inclusion of children aged up to 7.
Hristova said that funding has been provided for new 109 social services. Some 800 social workers will be trained.
The Deputy Minister said that the 144 million leva budgeted for their financing are 59 million leva more than in 2007. Care homes staff will have a pay rise of 20 per cent as from January 1 and another 10 per cent in mid-August.