According to the 2011 census, the population of Bulgaria was 7,364,570 people, down from a peak of nine million in 1989. Bulgaria has had negative population growth since the early 1990s, when the collapse of the economy caused some 937,000 people—mostly young adults—to emigrate by 2005. The population continues to decrease and the current growth rate is one of the lowest in the world.
Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8 per cent of the population. Turkish and Roma minorities comprise 8.8 and 4.9 per cent, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities comprise 0.7 per cent, and 0.8 per cent do not self-identify with an ethnic group. Romani people are considered second-class citizens by some Bulgarians and approximately 70,000 of them are engaged in criminal activities. Trafficking among Romani people is also widespread due to their bride market traditions. Roma integration programmes funded by the European Union have so far been unsuccessful. All ethnic groups speak Bulgarian, the only language with official status, and a native language for 85.2 per cent of the population. The oldest Slavic written language, Bulgarian is distinguishable from the other languages in this group through certain grammatical peculiarities such as the lack of noun cases and infinitives, and a suffixed definite article.
Bulgaria regards itself officially as a secular state. The Constitution guarantees religious freedom, but designates Orthodoxy as a "traditional" religion. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church gained autocephalous status in 927 AD, and currently has 12 dioceses and over 2,000 priests. Other religious denominations include Islam (10%), Roman Catholicism (0.8%) and Protestantism (1.1%); 0.2% practice other beliefs; and 11.8% do not self-identify with a religion; 21.8% of those taking part in the survey chose not to state any belief.
Government estimates from 2003 put the literacy rate at 98.6 per cent, with no significant difference between the sexes. Bulgaria has traditionally had high educational standards. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Science funds all public educational establishments, sets criteria for textbooks and oversees the publishing process. The State provides free education in government schools, except for higher education. The educational process spans through 12 grades, where grades one through eight are primary and nine through twelve are secondary level. High schools can be technical, vocational, general or specialised in a certain discipline, while higher education consists of a 4-year bachelor degree and a 1-year Master's degree.
Average life expectancy is 73.6 years, below the European Union average. The primary causes of death are similar to those in other industrialised countries, mainly cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms and respiratory diseases. Bulgaria has a universal healthcare system financed by taxes and contributions. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) pays a gradually increasing portion of the costs of primary healthcare. Healthcare expenditures in the national budget increased to 4.3 per cent between 2002 and 2004, and the NHIF accounted for more than 60 per cent of annual expenditures. The healthcare budget amounted to 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2010, or about 1.3 billion euro. The number of doctors is above the EU average with 181 physicians per 100,000 people, although there is a severe shortage of nurses and other medical personnel, and the quality of most medical facilities is poor.
Most Bulgarians (72.5 per cent) reside in urban areas. About 97 per cent of the population live in privately owned and owner-occupied homes. There is also a high rate of household appliance ownership, such as television sets (97.9 per cent of all households), refrigerators (93.3) and telephones (90.6), and relatively high rates for computers (42.9) and automobiles (41.9 per cent). The average rates in all categories are substantially higher in Sofia, the 12th-largest city in the European Union with a population of more than 1,200,000 people.
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