Ridiculous Croatian Red Tape Still Obstacle to Employment of Foreigners

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, out of about three and a half million Ukrainians who fled to the EU due to the war in their country, more than 8,600 have arrived in Croatia so far. That number will certainly increase. How long and for what period they’ll choose to remain in Croatia is difficult to estimate. So far, about four hundred people have expressed a desire to get a job and settle in Croatia.

“About 40 percent of them have a college or university degree. We’ll try to enable the recognition of their diplomas, as well as enable them to learn the Croatian language at the expense of the Croatian Employment Service,” said Minister Josip Aladrovic after a recent meeting of the Economic and Social Council.

The issuance of temporary residence permits by the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) to Ukrainian citizens should be accelerated, and the CES has already formed mobile teams who, together with social welfare centres, are touring the places Ukrainians fleeing the war in their homeland are coming to.

Among other things, Minister Aladrovic said that about a hundred companies have already expressed their readiness to employ Ukrainian nationals. He doesn’t expect disturbances and abuses in the labour market, and there is currently high demand, especially in regard to seasonal work as the summer tourist season approaches.

However, both the Minister and the unions expect greater involvement of the State Inspectorate in the control of possible abuses of labour relations in order to ensure equal rights and obligations as for all others in the labour market.

On behalf of HUP, Ivan Misetic emphasised that there are a significant number of medically educated women and that he hopes that there will not be too much bureaucratisation and Croatian red tape to trip them up on their roads to stable employment.

The issue of administrative procedures in this emergency situation is clearly being emphasised by employers based on their shared experiences, as Croatian red tape, long waits and rudeness from clerks are commonplace when hiring foreign labour from outside the EEA.

“Eight to ten weeks is too long to process applications for work permits, and it isn’t uncommon for foreign workers to just go and find work elsewhere during that waiting time,” explained Petar Lovric, the owner and director of the Kadus employment agency. When it comes to previous experiences with Ukrainian workers, they are recognised in Croatia as a desirable workforce, he added.

“However, after a solid 2019 in terms of that pool of labour and 2020, which was marked by the global coronavirus pandemic, last year we lost the game with the Poles in connection with the Ukrainian workers,” claims Lovric.

Partner agencies from Ukraine cited complicated procedures as one of the main reasons for this “loss of competitiveness” (including, for example, obtaining so-called apostilles by which resident countries confirm the authenticity of the required documentation). In addition, Croatia (primarily the Adriatic) is perceived as expensive to live in given wage levels in some of the most sought-after occupations.

Since the beginning of last year, Croatia has been implementing a new legal framework for the employment of foreigners (non-EEA nationals and British nationals who aren’t covered by the Withdrawal Agreement), which was introduced with the aim of facilitating it, as certain activities in recent years have had to rely more heavily on the import of workers from the likes of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, neither of which are EEA countries.

The former annual quota for the employment of foreigners in 2021 has been replaced by a system involving labour market tests, which are ”needs assessments” with regard to deficit occupations, for which the CES is in charge. For some occupations, you don’t need to take a test, but immediately go to the process of issuing a work permit, but for some you still need to.

The number of work permits issued to foreigners last year recorded a double-digit percentage increase (by the end of November, 75 thousand permits or 12 percent more than the year before had been issued) and for the state administration this is a confirmation of the improvement of the system in general. That being said, if you ask Croatian employers and employment agencies, there is still too much administration to deal with and it takes too long to finally get a valid work permit for a foreign employee.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that Croatian employers often don’t systematically deal with the planning and projection of their needs for workers, including foreign ones. Recruitment and selection processes generally take time, but in recent times this lack of planning can be partly explained by the unpredictability and uncertainties of the business environment.

Lovric said that better managed companies in the tourism sector today are systematically engaged in recruiting and selecting labour, but that most employers in neighbouring Slovenia who are focused on looking for labour and imports still pay insufficient attention to global trends that include less “multifunctional” workers.

He also believes that in a few years, the north of Croatia could face a serious problem of industrial unskilled workers if they don’t turn more strongly to attracting ideas such as the construction of workers’ settlements. Because of all this, he added, Kadus also plans to offer cooperation to local communities in terms of workforce planning for, for example, the next five to ten years.

For more, check out our business section.


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