Import of Foreign Workforce is Only Temporary Solution for Croatian Tourism

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Barbara Ban writes on the 20th of June, 2019, the Union of Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia recently spoke in Pula in a rather critical manner about the Croatian Government’s plans for the further increase in the quota for the import of foreign workforce for Croatian tourism, despite the fact that they are very much aware that there huge gaps in the Croatian labour market, especially in regard to seasonal workers.

The president of the aforementioned union, Marina Cvitić, believes that the Croatian Government should first aim to stop the mass departure of Croatian workers who are taking advantage of the EU’s fundamental four freedoms (one of which is the free movement of labour/people), and heading abroad. They also believe that the government should take the appropriate measures to ensure that those who do return, return to much more favourable business opportunities and higher wages. Otherwise, at least according to that union, the whole sense of Croatian tourism is entirely lost.

It is extremely alarming that 500,000 active and able workers have now left the Republic of Croatia. This trend is continuing, with EU membership making it all so much easier, and the Croatian Government is doing very little to at least try stop the displacement of Croatian citizens, most of whom are of working age.

At the same time, Croatia turns to a greater increase in the import of foreign workers, and by foreign we’re typically referring to non EU nationals, such as those from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, or even those from outside of the European continent, such as those from Pakistan, who would need to see a ”stay and work” permit in order to gain employment, hence the raising of the quota.

”The owners of Croatian tourist companies, but not solely tourist companies, because we sold everything we did not destroy, are often foreigners, their employees are foreigners, their profits go off to foreign countries, the salaries go to foreign countries, the laws and regulations are placed upon Croatia by the European Union… The question now is whether or not we even need a country if we have less and less Croatian citizens; huge amounts of money is leaving Croatia, and normative acts are being introduced by the EU? For what?” Cvitić asks.

He warned that the foreign labour force who came to work this summer in the field of Croatian tourism is not of the best quality and that Croatian workers are often angry because they feel that these imported workers have better conditions offered to them.

”Croatian workers are usually required to pay for their warm dinners, while those who are accommodated on the employer’s premises get it free of charge, this includes three meals, accommodation, transport and return allowance, recreation… As a rule, they first hire them and then they work until the end of the season, that gives them higher wages. And so it’s not surprising that incidents are occuring, nor is it surprising to see this situation heating up more and more, and it’s just a matter of time before it explodes.

While most local people have a high degree of tolerance towards Croatian workers, this threshold is much lower for foreign workers. And if it so happens, and it happens very often, that this involves [foreign] workers who don’t want to, or know how to work, but see all this as a possibility of enjoying a free summer holiday on the Adriatic, then there’s no wonder why the [Croatian] workers’ are unhappy,” stated the head of this union.

He thinks the solution is to reduce VAT in Croatian tourism by ten percent. That will, he believes, create the necessary conditions for the introduction of higher wages, which could once again attract more Croatian workers to return to work in Croatian tourism.

”For this situation that really is alarming, both employers and the Government of the Republic of Croatia are equally in the wrong.

I therefore suggest that the Minister of Tourism, or the Government of the Republic of Croatia, go ahead and accept the challenge offered by employers. Namely, the president of the Croatian Association of Tourism, Veljko Ostojić, suggested lowering the VAT on tourism to ten percent, and employers will then increase their workers’ salaries by thirty percent in a one-time increase and then raise them continuously between five and seven percent over the next three to five years. If that’s the truth, such measures would certainly contribute to halting the emigration of Croatian workers, but also increase spending which would then fill the budget, which would ultimately not be a loss,” added Cvitić.

Otherwise, the average salaries in Croatian tourism last year amounted to 5,175 kuna net per month, for the first three months, they stoof at 5,253, and they’re still 18 percent lower than the Croatian average. Cvitić says that this year, large hotel companies have raised their workers’ salaries, but that’s still nowhere near enough.

”When we look at the department of food and service, then the average is even lower, ie, it was 4,175 kuna last year, and for the first three months of this year it was 4,254 kuna, which is 34 percent below the Croatian average,” noted Cvitić.

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