November 27, 2018 / 2:04 PM / 12 days ago

Staff-hungry Bulgarian IT industry encourages expatriates to return home

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s software industry, struggling with staff shortages, is to launch a campaign to entice Bulgarian expatriates to return home after a poll found more than half would go back to Bulgaria if offered a job in the IT sector.

Over two million Bulgarians have left the Balkan country since the fall of communism in 1989 in search of better pay and opportunities in the West.

Bulgaria has since joined its wealthier peers in the European Union, but remains its poorest member and the number of people leaving still outnumbers those who are returning.

Software developers hope to reverse the trend and attract workers with competitive salaries and fast career development.

An online survey of 4,310 Bulgarians living in more than 70 countries, by the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM), found 57 percent would return home if offered a job in the IT industry.

Only 17 percent of these 4,310, however, were qualified for an IT job, the poll found, showing there would be a need for training.

“The results are very encouraging. We will start a homecoming campaign to attract these people to the software industry. We are in acute need of more workers, while career opportunities are big,” BASSCOM’s Chairman Dobroslav Dimitrov told a news conference.

Salaries in the Bulgarian IT sector already allow for living standards comparable to those in Germany or Britain, he said.

Some 27,000 people work for Bulgarian software companies, which have been growing fast in recent years, doubling their revenues over five years to more than 2.54 billion levs ($1.47 billion).

Some 3,500 new jobs were created in 2017 in the software industry, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. The average monthly salary in the sector was three and half times higher than Bulgaria’s average of 1,100 levs ($636) in 2017.

Its further growth however is hampered by labor shortages in the country of seven million people.

One in two software companies in Bulgaria plans to hire up to 50 percent more workers next year, but BASSCOM estimated that they would only be able to manage about a 10 percent increase in staff due to labor shortages.

According to the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, the Black Sea state would need at least 500,000 workers in the next five years to speed up its economic growth.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Adrian Croft

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