Free movement of people is a right that is beginning to create more and more problems for countries, cities and villages, and entire regions. But it also solves problems – depending on the direction of the movement. And it is usually from places with a lower standard to places with a higher standard. Better income lures people who are able to move. Even France and Germany suffer from the fact that highly qualified specialists choose Switzerland and the United States.
The Rich Also Cry
“The EU should consider a regulation to prevent member states from stealing doctors and other specialists from each other,” said the German Health Minister Jens Spahn in January. I understand, Switzerland is a rich country, but in Germany, there is a shortage of such specialists. Then, Polish doctors come to work here, which leads to a shortage of doctors in Poland,” the Minister said. According to him, there is a need for new rules for attracting EU specialists abroad without fundamentally questioning the free movement in Europe. It is a complex case.
Is It Just About Being a Donor of Grey Matter
The problem for Bulgaria is even more serious, and that is why we often hear the well-known categorical statement: “Let us be clear – Bulgarians abroad are who they are, thanks to everyone who remains here. Our taxes provided their free training and qualification. Today, they create added value for foreign economies. And what about ours? Will it be an everlasting donor of grey matter, a shelter for wretches and hopeless Don Quixotes?” It is paradoxical, but it is through the outflow of people that wealth begins to generate poverty. We waste money to create and qualify cadres, and when some of them go to work elsewhere, our economy is losing. So, we continue to be the poorest country in the EU. The West is richer and finds a way to attract specialists, and what are we supposed to do?
The Return Cause
For the IT industry, against the background of all other sectors, seems somewhat easier to find good professionals. The sector has achieved a quality of work and a standard that others can only dream of, but it also lacks cadres. That is why, at the end of last year, The Return Campaign, which has the long-term goal of attracting people back to Bulgaria, was started.
According to Dobroslav Dimitrov, Executive Director of Empire Online and Chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM), all this goes together with the parallel change of the vision for Bulgaria in the eyes of our compatriots abroad. For the people who succeed here, this is a noble cause. “Bulgarians outside Bulgaria have a distorted picture of the current situation here, but it is good to know that they can already build a career comparable to the one in the West in their homeland.
Bulgaria is a good place to start a business; Sofia is the biggest startup hub in Eastern Europe. Many international companies open offices in the Bulgarian capital. The standard of work and life is steadily rising, and the IT sector is already offering better opportunities than its employees would have abroad. Even the World Bank decided to open its only IT centre in Europe namely in Sofia, after competing with seven other countries. Look how the automotive sector is growing exponentially in Plovdiv. There is an acute shortage of staff there – from engineers to mechanics and other specialists,” explains Dobroslav Dimitrov.
Forget About the Cheap Labour
The mantra about cheap labour must be forgotten. Cheap labour can exist, but in non-specialized areas. In the high-tech sectors, we can no longer say that Bulgaria is a cheap destination. No! In Bulgaria there are quality people, super-well prepared. By expert opinion, Bulgarian programmers, evaluated by their colleagues around the world, get into the Top 3. Patriotic appeals do not work, Bulgarians around the world just need to realize that they can have an exceptional career in Bulgaria, too.
Startup environment makes it possible to develop a world-level business, Dobroslav Dimitrov says. In fact, his personal experience is a proof of that. Together with his business partner, Moni Dochev, in 2005, they created Empire Online. Over the years, it has established itself as a leading game developer in Central and Eastern Europe with more than 25 titles; its most popular product, Imperia Online, is a medieval online multiplayer strategy game that has tens of millions of consumers around the world. The success and recognition of the company allowed it to join the Swedish public group Stillfront, but it remained in Bulgaria. What is more, Upnetix, the other company they both founded, last year, became part of the Bulgarian ScaleFocus, creating one of the largest IT companies in Bulgaria. If that’s not a success achieved in Bulgaria...
The Example of Baron
It would be good if the state were to take on its role in this return process – it has its own communication channels, but its main role is to improve the living environment. What is required is for the administration to be flexible and quick to solve the problems that arise. The figures, quoted by BASSCOM, show that within 12 years, the IT sector has grown nearly ten times and together with the outsourcing industry, it is already creating about 7.8% of the GDP. This money comes mainly from outside, but is mostly spent in Bulgaria. The beneficial effect of the domino caused by the technology business is that it is a driving force for the development of many other sectors in Bulgaria.
If the business in other sectors also succeeds in grabbing itself by the hair, and like Baron Munchausen, pulls itself out of problems and difficulties, then later on, having a higher level of development, it will be easier to attract people from outside. There are ways, we just have to look for them...