Economy of Eastern Europe


Belarus is an authoritarian state in the absence of democracy. The country is ruled by the dictatorial president Alexander Lukashenko, who also controls the country’s largest union. In 2015, the Belarusian author Svetlana Alexeyevich received the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 207 600 km2

Capital: Minsk

Language: Russian and Belarusian are official languages

Labor market and economy:

The state and state-owned companies play a major role in the labor market. According to COUNTRYAAH, unlike other countries in Eastern Europe, Belarus has not undergone the same wave of deregulation and privatization. Although the country became independent in 1991, several state-owned companies were privatized, but after Lukashenko came to power in 1994, the state’s influence over the economy grew again. The lack of freedom has made the country internationally isolated. Foreign investment in the country is small. Of great importance to the economy is the state-controlled heavy industry. Belarus is heavily dependent on Russia, partly because Russia supplies the country with gas. Belarus has borrowed heavily from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), especially after the financial crisis in 2008. At the same time, the country has an extensive own agriculture, which has meant that the need to import food is limited. Furthermore, the level of education in the country is relatively high. This means that there is a potential for economic development.


Bulgaria has been rapidly transformed and democratized since the fall of the Soviet Union. But the demands for far-reaching privatizations have met with some resistance. There are two trade union movements, a reformed continuation of the old trade union structure and a newly formed movement.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 110 900 km2

Capital: Sofia

Language: Bulgarian is the official language, in addition Turkish, Romani and Macedonian are spoken

Labor market and economy:

The transition to a market economy has been difficult, and after a long period of economic decline, growth did not increase until the end of the 1990’s. Corruption is high and the black economy is estimated to correspond to 40 percent of the country’s GDP. As a result of the government structural adjustment programs, extensive sales, closures and cuts in the state industry have taken place. The state is forced to follow the IMF’s decree not to keep unprofitable companies in its arms.

In recent years, investment in the country has increased from a low level. Important industries include the mining and metals industry, agriculture and tourism.


The Republic of Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries. The economy is based on agriculture. Moldova has tried to move closer to the EU, but the political situation in the country is unstable. The trade union movement in Moldova has had difficulty coping with the change in connection with the country’s economy being deregulated.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 33,800 km2

Capital: Chisinau

Language: Moldovan is the official language, in addition there are several minority languages.

Labor market and economy:

Moldova is a distinctly agricultural country, with a high proportion of the labor force in agriculture and the informal sector. The economy is based primarily on the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, wine and tobacco. The country also exports textiles and metals. In the last decade, the economy has been exposed to great strain, which has led to cuts in education and health care, among other things. Public finances are poor and half the population lives in poverty.

A very large part of the Moldovan population works abroad, mainly in Romania, Turkey, Russia, Italy and other European countries. The money sent home from family and relatives abroad is an important source of income for many and, according to the World Bank, accounts for as much as 23 percent of GDP.


In 2004, major protests led to the Orange Revolution and in 2014 to Euromajdan. In both cases, the results were major political upheavals, but also an increased division within the country, not least between the western and eastern regions. The trade union movement is large, but has lost strength.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 603 700 km2

Capital: Kiev

Language: Ukrainian and Russian

Labor market and economy:

Ukraine is by far the second largest country in Europe after Russia. Eastern Ukraine is more industrialized, while poor rural areas are more common in the “Ukrainian parts of Ukraine”. After Russia’s occupation of Crimea and after separatists took control of Donetsk and Luhansk, the economy has fallen into a deep slump. GDP and economic growth have fallen at the same time as the counties have fallen and unemployment has been made permanent at a high level. Especially in western Ukraine, many people have gone abroad to find a better livelihood, not least many Ukrainians work in Poland.


Romania is a democratic republic. The economy and labor market in the country have changed fundamentally. This has meant great strain, but unemployment is relatively low. The trade union movement has lost many members, but still plays a significant role.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 237,500 km2

Capital: Bucharest

Language: Romanian is the official language, in addition there are several minority languages.

Labor market and economy:

The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have called for changes in labor law to give Romania access to new loans and credits. The new laws have led to fewer and fewer workers being covered by collective agreements. According to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), 98 percent of workers were covered by collective agreements in 2011, that figure is now down to 36 percent.

The main industries in the country are agriculture, textiles, metals and chemicals.