The road in question is not the one taken by the busses coming west, but the one that carries my voyage deeper into the blogosphere. Phew, it's been a hard morning all told, a bit rough round the edges, plain and simple, but Our Bulgaria Blog is now there (the 'our' in question here is me and Margy, playing our double act: from here to absurdity).
Reflecting emigration, a decline in the birth rate, an initial fall in life expectancy, populations declined in the decade of the 1990's by between 6 and 9 per cent in Latvia, Estonia and Bulgaria. Latvia and Bulgaria experienced particularly large net emigration of about 5% of population, primarily in the years of transition (which transition, edward?). While some of this may have been a response to worsening economic conditions, a majority of Latvians and Estonians emigrated to their countries of origin in the CIS, while more than half the Bulgarian emigrants were ethnic Turks who emigrated to Turkey. In Lithuania, in contrast, emigration was small, and the population declined only marginally.
In all four countries, labour force participation, and participation rates have declined substantially, helping at least to contain increases in unemployment (think Japan here, edward). In this, the experinece has been broadly similar to other transition economies. Labour force participation has been broadly similar to other transition economies. Labour force participation has declined by 11% in Bulgaria, about 15% in Latvia and Estonia, and 3% in Lithuania, where the population decline was far less dramatic (interesting detail: edward). As a result, participation rates in all four countries have declines as well (what does this mean: edward) and, at between 41 and 49% are low relative to western industrial countries.
The decline in participation rates has several causes. First pension systems - in particular loose rules for disability and early retirement - have increased the number of pensioners, serving as a de facto safety net for many older workers who may have lacked the skills required by the new private sector (construction workers, waiters? Edward). second some workers became discouraged in their attempts to find a job, and dropped out of the labour force altogether. According to labor force survet data, this reduced participation in 1997 in Latvia by 4.5%, and in Bulgaria by 6.5%