Reassessing Welfare Impacts of Bulgarian Fiscal Policy through a Child Poverty Perspective

This paper delves into Bulgaria's persistent issue of child poverty, even amidst policy efforts at the European Union (EU) and national levels. The study updates a comprehensive fiscal incidence analysis using the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) model, considering COVID-19's impact and a child-focused perspective, and simulates child-related policy interventions' effectiveness in alleviating child poverty. Our results show that Bulgaria's fiscal system has a limited impact on the overall at-risk of poverty rate, though it shows potential in reducing poverty for lower income deciles. Bulgaria's fiscal system reduces inequality compared to other countries with similar income levels, primarily driven by the substantial influence of direct transfers, education, and health allocations. Nevertheless, the redistributive effect of direct taxes and transfers remains comparatively modest within Europe. The study emphasizes the progressive nature of Bulgaria's fiscal components, benefiting the poorest through social benefits. When applying a child lens, our results show that fiscal policy is not very effective in addressing child poverty, as it reduces it by just 0.3 percentage points. However, means-tested programs targeting families and children play a significant role in mitigating child poverty. This research also underscores that specific households in Bulgaria face heightened vulnerability and may not receive optimal support from fiscal measures, including households with three or more children and lone-parent households, especially those headed by lone females. Microsimulation results suggest that enhancing child tax deductions among low-income earners and refining the design of child benefits to improve targeting effectiveness and generosity can notably contribute to child poverty reduction. The paper offers insights into more equitable policy design in Bulgaria's pursuit of combating child poverty.