In 2020, GDP per capita in Blagoevgrad district retained its levels from the year before, which was in line with the general trend in the rest of the country. Salaries and income levels continued to rise. In 2020, employment rates fell and unemployment rates went up. Blagoevgrad is among the districts with the best road surface quality. Contrary to general nationwide trends, the district is relatively well developed economically, and in 2022 the level of local taxes again remained quite low. In 2021, practically the whole of the district’s territory was covered by the cadastral map.
Blagoevgrad has performed relatively well in terms of demographic indicators and is one of the districts with the highest rate of enrolment in 5th–8th grade. Students’ results in 2022 again remained close to the national averages. Healthcare suffers from a shortage of doctors and hospital beds. The crime rate remains relatively low and detection rates relatively high but delivery of justice is sluggish. The share of forested areas is high. The intensity of the cultural life is traditionally not very high, compared to that of other districts.
GDP per capita in Blagoevgrad district reached 10,400 BGN/person in 2020, against the national average of 17,300 BGN/person, and retained its level from the year before, which was in line with the general trend in the rest of the country. Both salaries and incomes have also continued to rise. The average gross salary per person has reached 10,900 BGN, versus 16,700 BGN in the country. As regards poverty indicators, there has been a decline. In 2021, the relative share of people living in material deprivation was 19.5%, compared to the national average of 19.4%, while the number of those living under the national poverty line fell by 6 p.p. to 19.1%, and for the first time in at least three years was lower than the national average of 22.1%.
In 2020 and 2021, economic activity in the district slackened, though again remaining above the national average. In 2021, its rate reached 75.3%, against 72.0% in the country. Moreover, alongside this decline Blagoevgrad district experienced a sharp drop in employment accompanied by a rise in unemployment. The employment rate fell by nearly 2.4 p.p. to 69.1%, though remaining relatively high against the national average of 68.1%. The unemployment rate rose to 8.1%, compared to the national average of 5.3%. The educational structure of the labor force has remained relatively unfavorable and in 2021 it further deteriorated. The share of the population aged 25–64 with a university degree decreased slightly to 21.0% (versus 29.6% in the country), and those with primary and lower education increased to 18.8% (against 16.6% in the country). The population replacement rate as a ratio of the people aged 15–19 to those aged 60–64 has reversed the tendency towards a steady decrease and in 2021 it rose, albeit remaining below average at 64.8%, versus 69.4% countrywide. This means that for every 100 people who are about to leave the labor market in the next few years, there will be 65 young people joining the workforce.
Unemployment rate of the population aged 15-64 (annual average) (2022)
The number of non-financial enterprises relative to the population in the district decreased for the first time in 2020, though remaining much higher than in the country on average – 70 per 1,000 persons, compared to the national average of 60 per 1,000 persons. Investment and production value also declined. FDI decreased by 2% to 1,700 EUR/person (compared to 3,900 EUR/person in the country), and FTA acquisition expenditures fell by 15% to 1,500 BGN/person, against 3,300 BGN/person in the country. Production value in the district in 2020 was 17,300 BGN/person, compared to 27,200 BGN/person in the country. Utilization of EU funds has continued to increase, now exceeding the national average. By 30 June 2022, payments made in Blagoevgrad district to beneficiaries under EU operational programs reached 3,800 BGN/person, placing it third in the country after Sofia (capital city) and Gabrovo. The largest recipients in the district were in Bansko municipality.
Number of non-financial companies per 1,000 people (2021)
Due to the district’s geographic location at the country’s periphery and the relatively large proportion of mountainous terrain, the density of its road and railroad network is low. For the same reason, its share of highways and first-class roads in the country’s road network is small. Nevertheless, Blagoevgrad remains among the districts with the best road quality, second only to Sliven district as regards the share of road surfaces in good condition – 66% in 2021, compared to 42% for the country. The relative share of households with broadband internet access in Blagoevgrad district again remained below the national average in 2021. The share of households connected to a gas supply also remained lower than the national average – 4.4%, versus 5.3% respectively.
Contrary to general nationwide trends, the district is relatively well developed economically, while in 2022 the level of local taxes has again remained quite low. Within the district, Blagoevgrad municipality levies the highest local taxes. Rates in Satovcha municipality are among the lowest not only on a district but also on a national scale.
Cadastral map coverage in Blagoevgrad has been rising by leaps and bounds over the past few years and in 2021, it included practically the whole of its territory, against the national average of 97.4%, In 2022, both the development of e-government and the provision of one-stop-shop services in Blagoevgrad’s municipalities place the district below the national average. The AIP transparency ratings of the local administration in Blagoevgrad’s municipalities worsened in 2022 and placed the district below the national average – 61.3% in the district, versus 70.2% nationally.
Level of development of local government e-services (2023)
In regard to demographic indicators, Blagoevgrad has achieved relatively good results, although similar to all other districts in the country, the trend towards fast population ageing is in evidence here as well. In 2021, the natural population growth in the district fell sharply for the second year in a row, though at –10.6‰ it again remained higher than the national average of –13.2‰. The district continued to attract new residents and its net migration rate reached 1.1‰, though it too recorded a decline compared to the year before. Population ageing in the district remains an ongoing trend but in 2020 its rate again remained below the national average. The ratio of the age dependency of the people aged 65+ to those aged 0–14 reached 137.2%, compared to 149.3% in the country, and to those aged 15–64 it was 31.0%, versus 34.0% nationwide. A relatively small share of the population lives in urban settlements – 60.5%, against the national average of 73.1%. At the same time, the population density in the district’s urban settlements remains high at 2,242 persons/sq. km, versus 1,489 persons/sq. km on average for the country.
Blagoevgrad is among the districts with the highest rate of enrolment in 5th–8th grade – 92.9% in 2021, compared to 85.9% countrywide. The percentages of school year repeaters and of dropouts from primary and secondary education remain considerably lower than the respective national averages. The number of teachers relative to primary and secondary school students remains close to the national average. In 2022, students’ performance in Blagoevgrad district also remained close to the national averages. The district’s average score in the external examination in mathematics at the end of 7th grade reached 35.0 points, compared to 35.3 points in the country. For its part, the average result in the State matriculation exams in Bulgarian language and literature was “Good” 3.91, versus 3.97 nationally. The share of “fail” (below 3.00) grades was 16%, against 17% nationwide. In line with the nationwide trend over the past few years, the number of university students as a share of the total population has been on the decline, reaching 29 per 1,000 persons, against 32 per 1,000 persons in the country.
Students in colleges and universities 1000 people (2022)
The percentage of people with health insurance in Blagoevgrad district rose slightly in 2021 and again remained above the national average. At the same time, the healthcare system in the region keeps suffering from shortages of medical staff – both GPs and specialist physicians – and of hospital beds. The number of beds in the local general hospitals has even fallen to 3.79 beds per 1,000 persons, compared to 5.62 beds per 1,000 persons as the national average. The number of patients treated in the local hospitals remains quite low but having in mind the shortage of physicians and beds in the local general hospitals, the assumption is that the local population seeks medical care in other districts. Infant mortality rates are among the lowest in the country – 1.5‰, versus 5.6‰ nationwide for 2021.
Court workloads in Blagoevgrad district remained lower than the national average in 2021 – 7.2 cases a month per one criminal judge, compared to 9.0 nationally. Nevertheless, justice delivery was not speedy enough. The share of pending cases was 15%, compared to 12% as the national average. Blagoevgrad is also among the districts (alongside Sofia and Yambol) with the lowest number of cases cleared within 3 months – 82%, versus 89% in the country. The crime rate in the district remained low in 2021, and detection rates were relatively high. Registered crimes against the person and property in Blagoevgrad district amounted to 7.4 per 1,000 persons, with 9.8 per 1,000 persons as the national figure. 55.4% of those crimes were cleared, against 51.7% on average for the whole country.
Share of criminal cases closed in the first 3 months (2022)
The amount of household waste generated in the district is relatively low – an annual of 327 kg/person, against 409 kg/person on a national scale. However, Blagoevgrad is among the districts where only a very small part of this waste is handed over for treatment and recycling – 7.3%, against 69.3% as the national average. A relatively large part of the district’s population lives in settlements with a public sewerage network – 83.3% versus 76.3% countrywide. However, in 2020 connectivity to wastewater treatment plants was low – 32.7%, against the national average of 66.7%. The share of forest areas is high – 51.5%, compared to 33.1% nationally, and that of degraded land is low, at 0.11%, versus 0.42% nationally.
Household waste generated per capita of serviced population (2020)
The intensity of Blagoevgrad district’s cultural life is traditionally not very high when compared to other districts, and in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic and the reduced number of visits to social places, it shrank even further. Still, in 2021 it rose a bit, compared to 2020. Cinema visits almost doubled to reach 258 per 1,000 persons, with 351 per 1,000 persons nationwide. The number of theatre visits also doubled to 63 per 1,000 persons, compared to the national average of 129, and museum visits rose to 320 per 1,000 persons, compared to 426 per 1,000 persons nationwide. However, numbers for library visits did not follow the nationwide trend and in 2021 went up, for the first time surpassing the national average figures relative to the population in the country.
Number of visits to cinemas per 1,000 people of the average annual population (2021)