The Municipality with the Highest Wages in Bulgaria
Which is the municipality with the highest average wage in the country? This question does not have a straight answer. The reason behind this is that the data in the country for the employees and the wages on the municipal level are not published, but must be requested from the National Statistical Institute (NSI). On the regional level, the information is often related only to the wages on the district level, which does not tell us much – it pools together the big regional centre with the small village commune, and those are clearly very different. The discourse about regional inequalities is more precise when we have in mind the municipality level.
Exactly because of this, after we published the municipal map of unemployment rates for the 2011-2017 period, today we also publish an interactive map with the municipal wages for 2017. It is important to note that the data for the municipal level wages for 2018 are still not available. However, from the country-level data we already know that the average wages in 2018 have already grown 10% compared to those in 2017. This means that when you look at the municipality wages on the interactive map, you must keep in mind that the average wage in the given municipality is most probably rising – the mark is a rise of around 10%. It is clear that the rates of increase will be different for each municipality, but, in general, we should expect a rise in all averages – the comparison between 2017 and 2016 confirms this.
The municipalities with the highest average wage in Bulgaria are not the big district centres. The leaders are, in fact, fairly small municipalities, in which there are large employers – usually in the energy and manufacturing sectors. These big companies pay high wages and also dominate the local labour market – in other words, a big part of the workforce on the territory of the municipality works exactly for them. This is very clearly expressed in the municipality of Mirkovo, since it remains the only municipality for which we do not have available data for the average wage - the data is confidential.
The highest average wage in Bulgaria for 2017 is registered in the municipality of Chelopech – here there is a big mining company which leads to an average wage of 2,178 leva for the municipality. After the municipality of Chelopech we have the municipality of Kozloduy with its nuclear power plant – with an average wage of 1,790 leva; the municipalities of Radnevo and Galabovo, with their big companies in the energy sector, have average wages of 1,657 and 1,610 leva, respectively. After them, we have the municipality of Pirdop – an average wage of 1,562 leva (again, thanks to a big mining company) and the municipality of Devnya – an average wage of 1,442 leva (with its developed manufacturing sector).
The capital Sofia is placed 8th in 2017 with an average wage of 1,433 leva. Despite leading many other economic rankings, here the municipality of Sofia cannot take the top spot since the economic profile of the capital is highly diverse and, although wages are high, they cannot reach the average levels of pay in some of the small municipalities where a considerable share of the workers are hired in the energy or manufacturing sectors. After Sofia in the ranking comes Panagyurishte (9th place) with an average wage of 1,285 leva in 2017. Again, this is an example of a municipality which reaches the top positions thanks to its big mining company. The other municipalities in the top 20 include municipalities with a heavy manufacturing sector – usually near a big city, with well-developed industrial zones. Examples of such municipalities include Kostinbrod, Elin Pelin and Bozhurishte (near Sofia), Suvorovo, Aksakovo and Beloslav (near Varna), and Maritza (near Plovdiv). All these municipalities had an average wage between 1,000 and 1,200 leva in 2017.
A look at the municipal level map of wages allows us to see clearly the leading economic centres, as well as the regions which experience difficulties. The differences between North and South Bulgaria can also be seen clearly. In the South centres with higher wages are formed around Sofia and Plovdiv, as well as around Burgas and Stara Zagora. Centres which are well connected and can truly interact in a positive way. To these big cities we can add also the mining sector in the small communes in the Srednogorie Region.
In the North the only centre with high wages around a big city is Varna. The other examples, like Sevlievo and Letnitsa, are good but they cannot have a considerable influence on this part of the map. This is one of the arguments which we have mentioned previously when we talk about regional development. The problems of the North are not related only to the depopulation of certain municipalities in North-West Bulgaria, but also to the absence of strong economic centres, which can interact. Some of the big cities in the North, like Pleven, are actually losing workers and they do not offer high wages.
In fact, if we take a closer look at the map, we can also see big clusters of municipalities with low wages in the South, especially around Blagoevgrad. A year ago, there was a discussion about why the wages in Blagoevgrad are so low and comparable to those in Vidin. The municipal map can give us a reasonable answer. In the municipality of Blagoevgrad, the wages are not so low, but the situation in the nearby small municipalities has seriously deteriorated. Less than 1/3 of the workers in the Blagoevgrad area work in the local centre. The rest of them work in nearby municipalities where the wages are some of the lowest in the country.
This map is an excellent example of how the availability and the clear presentation of municipal level data can explain the many processes on a regional level. In this case, IME made a modest investment in order to make this data available to all.