The greatest problems facing rural women in Bulgaria are: unemployment; declining or low incomes; economic problems caused by social changes; the heavy workload both in paid employment and at home; lack of free time and inequality in free time compared to men; low level of education; and depopulation of the rural areas, especially the migration of young rural women. In this paper an assessment of the position of women relative to men in the rural labour market is made, based on gender disaggregated data from a range of official documents and reports prepared by Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) of Bulgaria and others. It confirms the results of earlier studies that women occupy a generally disadvantaged position in agriculture and rural areas in Bulgaria. EU-co-funding programmes potentially provide a way of redressing this imbalance. Using the results from a mail survey conducted amongst beneficiaries, the extent to which women have benefited from some of the measures in the SAPARD programme is assessed, and also the ways in which gender issues have been mainstreamed into the Rural Development Programme 2007–2013 are reviewed. It can be concluded that Bulgaria is making significant progress in the development of rural areas, and especially in involving women as an active force in the labour market.
Key words: women, agriculture, rural areas, employment, SAPARD, Rural Development Programme
JEL classification system: Q18