Though Vratsa remained in the upper half of the GDP per capita district ranking, it was one of few districts where it dropped in 2015. The labor market in the district exhibited certain disturbing tendencies. Vratsa was also among the few districts where employment rates went down in 2016 while unemployment was twice the size of that in the country as a whole. The low quality of road surfaces is still a serious problem. Investment activity was weak though the average rates of local taxes and fees in the district’s municipalities are relatively low.
The demographic picture in the district is deteriorating. The average grades at matriculation exams rose in 2017 to approach the national average. Vratsa was one of the districts with the lowest judge workloads and a high crime clearance rate. The district’s relatively low urbanization determined the relatively small share of the population connected to sewerage systems. On the other hand, its air was relatively unpolluted and the quantity of generated waste was low. In 2016 the district’s cultural life could be characterized by low intensity.
Though Vratsa remained in the upper half of GDP per capita ranking, it was one of the few districts where it dropped in 2015 to reach 9,305 BGN/person while it was 12,339 BGN/person on average for the country. Meanwhile, the average salary kept growing but the growth rate, compared with the national average, was lower in 2015 than that in 2014. Thus, for the first time since 2008, the district of Vratsa was lagging behind national average levels with an annual average salary of 10,332 BGN (vs. 10,535 BGN for Bulgaria). These tendencies entailed an increase of the share of local people living below the national poverty line, which in 2015 reached 37.7% while the national average was 22.9%.
Some tendencies on the district’s labor market generate concern. The economic activity rate (57.9%) dropped considerably in 2016 to figures close to the country’s lowest of 68.7% nationwide. In Vratsa, alongside a few other districts, employment dropped to 50% while the national average was 63%, placing the district last in the national ranking. Unemployment on the other hand, dropped but the reason was not that some unemployed people had found jobs; it was because they had become economically inactive. The educational structure of the workforce can provide an explanation for the problems of the labor market. In 2016 the share of the population aged 25–64 with university degrees dropped to 19% (vs. 28% nationally), while that of people with primary or lower education rose to 24% (vs. 18% nationally).
Unemployment rate of the population aged 15-64 (annual average) (2016)
Investment activity is comparatively low in the district. Vratsa is one of the districts with a relatively small number of enterprises relative to the population: there were 34 non-financial enterprises in operation in 2016 per 1,000 people (vs. 55 per 1,000 people in the country). Foreign investment dropped to a figure over 6 times smaller than the national average values: 503 euro/person compared with the national average of 3,250 euro cumulative as of the end of 2015. The annual investment in FTA also dropped, lagging even further behind the national average rates. Still, the district was characterized by relatively good EU fund utilization. 238 m BGN or 1,397 BGN/person had been paid by operational programs in the district as of 30th June 2017, while the national average was 1,344 BGN/person. The municipalities in the district with the largest sums paid to beneficiaries were those of Vratsa and Mezdra, while those with least funds were Oryahovo, Krivodol, and Kozlodui.
Number of non-financial companies per 1,000 people (2015)
The road and railroad density in the district of Vratsa are close to the national figures. The district’s location in the periphery of Bulgaria and the lack of a highway crossing it entail a low share of highways and first class roads: 10.1% vs.18.6% nationally. The relatively low quality of road surfaces is still a serious problem. 24.6% of roads were in good condition in 2016 (vs. 41.5% for the country as a whole). The river port of Oryahovo and the railroad connection between Vratsa and Mezdra play an important role in the district as the railroad junction at Mezdra connects it to the capital and the central part of the country. Both the share of households with Internet access and that of persons who used it increased in 2016.
The average rates of local taxes and fees in the municipalities of the district are relatively low. The rate of the annual license tax for retailers is almost twice lower than the national average rate, mainly due to the low rates in the municipalities of Hairedin, Roman and Misiya. The average rate of the tax on taxi services is lower too. There is no municipality in the district of Vratsa with an above-average rate for taxi services. In 2017 it was only the municipality of Kozlodui that raised the rates of two local taxes (those on immovable property and on the acquisition of property), while the remaining municipalities kept their 2016 rates.
In 2017, for the fifth successive year, the district’s administration rated the development of electronic government and the availability of one-stop shop services as higher than the average level for the country. The transparency rating for Vratsa municipalities rose in 2017 though it was still below average values. The municipalities of Kozlodui and Krivodol once again got the highest ratings for transparency, while Borovan and Hairedin got the lowest. In 2016, Vratsa was still among the districts with the lowest share of territory covered by cadastral maps – 8.5% compared to the national average of 22.5%. Parts of Oryahovo municipality received cadastral coverage for the first time while there was no development in any of the remaining municipalities. Six of the district’s 10 municipalities still have 0% cadastral coverage.
Share of territory included in cadastral map (2016)
The district’s demographic picture has been deterioratingfast as a consequence of low birthrates and high outmigration rates. The natural growth rate increased to –10.3‰ in 2016 though it remained considerably below the national average of –6.0‰. On the other hand, the net migration rate from the district rose to –9.1%, which placed it among the districts with the highest outmigration alongside Vidin and Smolyan. The age dependency ratio in the district also kept rising and in 2016 the ratio of the population aged 65+ to that aged 0–14 reached 176.5% compared to the national average of 147.1%. The district of Vratsa remains among those with the lowest share of urban population. In 2016 the share of people living in urban areas was 58.2% while it was 73.3% in the country, which predetermines the almost twice lower population density.
In 2016 the district of Vratsa had the highest net enrolment rate in 5th–8th grade (85.8%) compared to the national average of 78.2%. The share of repeaters dropped to become comparable with the national average values but the share of dropouts from primary and secondary education in 2015 rose to over 4% (under 3% nationally). In 2017 the average grade at the matriculation exam in BLL rose in the district to approach the national average grade. The share of fail grades dropped to 8.6% while it was 8.0% nationally. The number of students enrolled in higher education institutions – the branches of the Veliko Tarnovo University and the Medical University in Sofia – increased once again to reach 1,033 in 2016.
Students in colleges and universities 1000 people (2016)
2016 was the third successive year in which the share of health-insured persons increased in the district of Vratsa to place it once again among the districts with the highest rate of health insurance. Doctors relative to the population were still somewhat fewer than the average levels in 2016, especially specialists. For the first time in 6 years the district was lagging behind in number of hospital beds – 4.9 per 1,000 people, but the reason was that their number increased in the country as a whole. Hospitalizations were also relatively few. Infant mortality dropped in the district for the second year in succession – its rate was considerably below national average in 2016.
Vratsa ranked second, after Targovishte, in terms of low criminal judge workloads in 2016. A judge saw an average of 5.4 cases a month whereas the national average was 9.4 a month. This relatively low average workload also influenced the speed of administering justice: in 2016, 94% of cases were closed in less than three months (vs. 89% on average in the country) while pending cases dropped to 4% (vs. 8% nationally). Vratsa was also one of the districts with a traditionally high crime clearance rate: In 2016 it reached 64% (vs. 48% nationally). At the same time, however, the rate of registered crimes against the person and property was still higher at 14.0 per 1,000 people while the national average rate was 12.6 per 1,000 people.
Share of criminal cases closed in the first 3 months (2016)
The fact that the district of Vratsa is relatively poorly urbanized explains the low share of the people living in areas with public sewerage (55.9% vs. the national average of 75.5%). Connectivity with wastewater treatment plants was also low – 51% vs. 62.3% nationally in 2015. On the other hand, the district was characterized by relatively unpolluted air and small quantities of generated household waste. Harmful carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere in it were 111 t/sq. km or three times below the national average of 324 t/sq. km. Generated household waste in the district dropped to 262 kg/person annually (vs. 422 kg/person on average for the country).
Household waste generated per capita of serviced population (2015)
The intensity of cultural life in the district remained poor according to the monitored indicators in 2016. Compared to other regions which have cinemas, Vratsa had the fewest visits: 57 per 1,000 people annually or more than 10 times less than the national average of 778 visits per 1,000 people. Museum visits in the district increased in 2016 (190 per 1,000 people), but they were many times fewer than the national average of 743 per 1,000 people. Theater visits dropped in the district to 184 per 1,000 people (vs. 322 per 1,000 people nationally). The interest in local libraries also registered a drop to 409 per 1,000 people (vs. 605 per 1,000 people nationally).
Number of visits to cinemas per 1,000 people of the average annual population (2016)