IME report: Discrimination against LGBTI people costs Bulgaria billions of dollars a year

Bulgaria loses between $2.4 and 4.9 billion of additional GDP per year due to discrimination against LGBTI people, according to a report by the Institute for Market Economics (IME) presented at a business forum organized by the GLAS Foundation on the occasion of Sofia Pride, a June 13 media statement said.

Bulgaria’s GDP could be 2.5 to five per cent higher with full acceptance and equality of LGBTI+ people, according to the report.

Calculations by the IME show that in real terms for 2023, this would mean that instead of 15 900 per capita, which is the IMF’s estimate of the country’s GDP for 2023, it would be between 16.2 and 16.6 thousand US dollars.

The data are part of a report by the Institute for Market Economy assessing the negative impact of homophobia on the economic development of Bulgaria.

The analysis shows that rejection and discrimination are among the key drivers of emigration from the country for LGBTI+ people. Only by reversing the migration processes among homosexuals, the country has the potential to increase its population by 3000 to 5000 people a year.

According to the report, workplace discrimination has a direct impact on employee productivity.

The assessment reveals a potential for increasing the added value of LGBTI+ workers in Bulgaria by almost 10 000 leva a year, and labour productivity in the economy as a whole, by up to 1.8 per cent.

The wider acceptance of LGBTI+ people also affects the labour market. Eliminating hiring discrimination has the potential to increase the number of workers by 28 000 to 57 000 people and the employment rate by 0.7-1.4 percentage points.

The report also shows that the positioning and perception of Bulgaria as open and safe for LGBTI+ tourism can bring 184 million leva additional revenue to the tourism sector. The country loses almost 380 000 potential tourists who head to other destinations.

LGBTI+ acceptance has an established relationship with the potential for innovation.

The analysis shows that, with the complete elimination of discrimination, Bulgaria can raise its index of economic complexity (a frequently used measure of innovation potential and high-tech development) to levels close to the European average.

The assessment of the potential for expansion of investments in the country made by the IPI shows that discrimination against LGBTI+ people reduces the potential amount of foreign direct investment in the country by 9-15 per cent, or 2.5-4.3 billion euro by 2022.

Improving the environment for LGBTI+ has the opportunity to increase the number of workers, and the added value in the professional, managerial, etc. creative industries.

The estimated potential effect on employment with up to 21 thousand new employees, and on the added value up to 350 million leva.

The IME analysis also presents an overview of company policies towards the LGBTI+ community of the hundred largest enterprises in the country.

It reveals that only nine per cent of employment leader companies have specific activities that target the community, 19 per cent explicitly condemn discrimination, and 70 per cent of them have no mention of a policy or support for the LGBTI+ community.

The presented hypotheses, assessments and quantitative consequences of homophobia and discrimination can mainly serve as a starting point and the beginning of the conversation about what the Bulgarian economy can gain if it uses the resources of its LGBTI+ community better. They can also arm the advocates of equal rights with arguments.

A wide range of scientific theories in economics, public health and other social sciences support the idea that overcoming disenfranchisement and full inclusion of LGBTI+ people is associated with higher levels of economic development and well-being. Bulgaria ranks one of the last places in Europe in terms of guaranteeing the rights of LGBTI+ people, and to an even greater extent – ​​in terms of their acceptance in society.

The observed trends are also not particularly encouraging, as there are no indicators that point to a significant improvement in the environment or public opinion over the past decade.

The most appropriate description of the current state of rights and acceptance of LGBTI+ people in the country is “stagnation”, and at a very low level.

The half-day forum is aimed at companies committed to creating an inclusive work environment. Among the guests of the event are experts and representatives of some of the largest companies in the world, represented in Bulgaria –, Hyatt, Hilton, Siteground, IBM, Commerzbank, Accenture, EY, Telus International, HPE and others.

The report was prepared by the Institute for Market Economics on behalf of the GLAS Foundation with the financial support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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