Bulgarian women live in a society that is customarily patriarchal. While Bulgaria is often described as a patriarchal society, women may have substantial authority in household budgeting or agricultural decision making. Both men and women have the right to vote and own property. Women lag behind men only slightly in educational achievement. Despite decades of socialist ideology of gender equality, women are often employed in lower paying jobs, remain responsible for most household chores, and represent more than half the registered unemployed. They also occupy leadership positions less frequently than men. In 1996, fewer than 14 percent of postsocialist parliamentary representatives have been women, and only one in five municipal councilors were women in that year.
Many women entered paid employment during the socialist era, when an ideology of gender equality was promoted, and they made up nearly half the workforce in the late twentieth century. Women are frequently employed as teachers, nurses, pharmacists, sales clerks, and laborers, and less often involved in management, administration, and technical sciences. Women are also largely responsible for household tasks—child care, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Agricultural labor is divided according to gender, with men working with animals and machinery and women doing more hand labor in crop production, although flexibility exists in response to specific situations.
In principle, both men and women own property such as land, buildings, and animals, and inheritance is partible (i.e., property is divided among all heirs rather than going to a single heir). In practice, some heirs may be disinherited or may receive more land than their siblings, and daughters traditionally inherited less land than sons. The latter was sometimes explained in terms of the often large dowries of household goods and sometimes land or livestock that women traditionally took into marriage. Houses are often inherited by youngest sons, who bring their wives to live in the family home.
While marriage was traditionally very important in Bulgaria, there has been a rapid increase in unmarried cohabitation after the fall of communism. The transition from communism to market economy had a great impact on the demographic behavior of the population. After the fall of communism, the legal and social pressure to get married has declined, and the population has started to experience new life styles. As of 2014, 58.8% of children were born to unmarried mothers. In the European Values Study (EVS) of 2008, the percentage of Bulgarian respondents who agreed with the assertion that "Marriage is an outdated institution" was 27.2%.