A minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers legally pay their workers. Defining appropriate minimum wage is important for securing the minimum standard of living for the workers and their family members. ILO’s Minimum Wage Fixing Convention (No. 131) requests member states to establish a system of minimum wages at levels that take into account the needs of workers and their families, as well as economic factors such as state of economic development and prodctivity.
52 out of 187 ILO member countries have ratified the minimum wage convention up to now. In the European Union, 23 out of 28 member states have national minimum wages. Other countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria and Italy, have no minimum wage laws, but rely on employer groups and trade unions to set minimum wages through collective bargaining.
The new minimum wage in Bulgaria is at EUR 261 and is the lowest minimum wage in the EU reflecting the fact that the country has also the lowest income in EU with average monthly net earnings of approx EUR 400. As income levels have been low, almost 1 out of four Bulgarians left the country since the fall of the iron curtain. This massive braindrain can only be stopped if the levels of wages is gradually increasing. Minimum wages are one important element of securing adequate wage levels.
Bulgaria introduced minimum wage in 1990. The minimum wage fixing criteria, however, were not clarified and social dialogue did not serve as an alternative solution to determine minimum wage. In this context, all social partners recognized the necessity of ratifying the Convention.
ILO has been providing technical assistance to Bulgaria on minimum wage fixing. In 2017, a national legislative gap analysis to Convention 131 pointed out that a) Bulgarian legislation did not sufficiently define the concept of minimum wage and its components; b) there was no sufficient specification of the economic and social criteria for setting the minium wage and c) consultations with social partners were inadequate.
The findings of the legislative gap analysis were discussed at a national tripartite roundtable facilitated by ILO with the goal of reaching a consensus on C131 ratification. In addition, a technical workshop on international experience with minimum wage fixing was conducted upon the request of the government of Bulgaria. Convention 131 will enter into force on 20 March, 2019.