Reading the workforce DNA of Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa

The workforce disruption and pending economic recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are causing daily uncertainties that will stretch well into the coming years. The acceleration of automation and need for digital solutions, even for basic day-to-day chores, are undermining trust in what people knew and were familiar with. Something is certain though: local economies found resources from within and rose to the challenges they were facing in the first quarter of this year. So far, a combination of actions, inherited social traits and workforce resilience has helped countries from Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa to successfully manage the crisis.

This year-end edition of Inovantage lays in front of us, like a deconstructed DNA sample, those traits that define the region’s workforce landscape. The report aims to clarify: 1) what pre-pandemic conditions eased each country’s efforts in fighting the crisis and what accelerated their failings; and 2) what key learnings public and private stakeholders can learn and apply in the following years.

The report analyses global trends in workforce development and participation, but it focuses on the Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa regions (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates).

The report’s key findings include:

The best prepared countries to tackle workforce challenges are the ones with good social mobility and widespread vocational and technical skills.

Gender parity, ethnic minority integration and workforce inclusiveness play a key role in ensuring work transitions in challenging times

Enhanced ICT infrastructure and digital skills are fundamental to tackle any future disruptions in labour markets.

Countries with both public and private digital infrastructures and tech-savvy workforces had better results at managing the disruptions caused by initial lockdowns.

Government social measures and relatively lower interdependency with the globalised economy helped Eastern European countries bounce back easier.

The local political responses towards the labour markets were initially timid and poorly communicated. Most countries announced more support measures after the Cohesion Policy Response to the Covid-19 crisis was released by the EU.

The future of work in EEMENA belongs to an ever-learning and digitally skilled workforce.

With a vigorous but ageing population, countries in the region must offer more growth opportunities and up-to-date lifelong learning experiences to upskill their citizens.


In GTCI 2020, Bulgaria is ranked 55th. The country’s main strength relates to the pillar Retain, especially the sub-pillar Lifestyle. The greatest scope for improvement, meanwhile, is in the pillar Attract, where External Openness is the weakest sub-pillar.

Over the past thirty years, Bulgaria has been experimenting with fundamental changes. From a highly centralized, planned socialist economy it gradually changed to an open, market-based, upper-middle-income country. Acceding the EU increased social stability and a sense of security in the market. Structural reforms advancement accelerated in the late 1990s, and together with the expectation of EU accession unleashed a period of exceptionally high economic growth and improved living standards.

Private companies operate under stable macroeconomic conditions which are enhancing the Bulgarian economy’s attractiveness, especially in the outsourcing, tourism and agriculture sectors. For outsourcing in particular, Bulgaria has become one of the most attractive destinations in Europe, having a leading position,
particularly in the South-eastern part of the continent. In recent years, the country has developed sophisticated outsourcing services, such as BPO and ITO. More and more global companies are choosing Bulgaria to open their back-office, outsourced R&D and shared service centers, utilizing the highly skilled workforce, especially in
the IT sector (World Bank, 2020).

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