ESC proposes to introduce new financial instruments for lifelong learning through which to improve access, scope and quality of formal and non-formal learning in Bulgaria. This is the main message from the ESC analysis “New financial instruments for the development of lifelong learning in Bulgaria”.

The analysis examines in detail the factors that require rapid expansion and more accessible forms of education and training for adults in the labour market. ESC notes that continuing education in our country is mainly financed by European funds and the national budget. At the same time, the document notes with concern that government spending on education remains relatively low compared to the European average. On the other hand, the demographic processes of decrease in the population in active age and its ageing make it even more categorical that Bulgaria needs more and better trained human capital.

ESC has once again drawn the attention of state institutions and civil society to the need to develop continuing education systems in Bulgaria. As early as in 2005 ESC warns that the vocational education and training system, as well as the education system as a whole, are underfunded. The new rapid changes related to the digital economy make even more serious the issue of continuous and high-quality training for the current labour market needs. According to ESC, targeted and rapid investment in the skills of people of active age is needed to compensate for their lagging behind in different competencies. ESC also notes that the introduction of new tools for financing lifelong learning is not only imperative but possible at a rapid pace.

In this regard, the analysis of the ESC examines the experiences of other countries with good achievements in lifelong learning. Comparing the different forms of funding in these countries and the experience that already exists in Bulgaria, ESC offers two new financial instruments for lifelong learning.

The first instrument that ESC presents as appropriate and applicable in Bulgaria consists of the so-called Sectoral Training and Qualification Funds (STQF). Such funds exist in half of the EU, US, Canada and Australia. The activities of these funds are aimed at satisfying the specific interests of qualification and retraining in different industries, and the social partners play a key role in managing them. Most often, STQF are directly related to collective agreements and the commitment to improve the qualifications of workers. The main source of training is the contributions to the fund for which employers and employees benefit from tax relief.

Individual Training Accounts (ITA) is the second financial instrument that, according to ESC, can be applied effectively in our country and will stimulate people's participation in the lifelong learning process. The analysis notes that ITA is a type of personal savings account, unlike training vouchers that do not require a personal financial contribution. These individual accounts increase the freedom of choice of persons to study and increase the motivation to participate in training. In many cases, the use of ITA involves co-financing from other sources such as public finances and European funding, with only a minimal part of the financing being provided by the ITA at the person's expense.

ESC's analysis concludes that Sectoral Training and Qualification Funds and Individual Training Accounts encourage both employers and employees to participate in the lifelong learning process. ESC also notes that the introduction of new financial instruments must be accompanied by a monitoring mechanism and continuous impact assessment.



is the “bridge” between citizens and the national government. Its mission is to support such “bridging” so as to facilitate the communication between the society and the national government. It is the new and modern institution of the civil dialogue.

The ESC's mission is to promote civil society organisations access to and involvement in the process of decision-making on strategic economic and social issues.

The main goal of ESC's operation is to enable different representatives of organised civil society to feel free to state their views whereas unanimity on matters of common interest is encouraged. The Council expresses and protects civil society interests by communicating agreed statements and proposals submitted by its members to the executive and legislative authorities.

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