As Novac/Sanja Stapic/Slobodna Dalmacija writes on the 27th of March, 2019, why exactly are the powers that be in Croatia constantly talking about importing workers from around the world if they can be found among students and retired people already here? This is a valid question that is increasingly being put forward by Croatian employers, and it could bring results. A new law has put the spring back in the step of many, and riled others, as it allows retirees to be employed for four hours a day, and still retain all of their rights to their retirement and pensions.
It was in this exact manner that Spar Croatia launched an employment program for retired individuals which lasts for four hours, allowing them continued full access to their retirement benefits and offer a flexible employment schedule. Konzum followed the same path not long after, and this giant company is announcing in the media that they’re on the lookout for new people, turning to students and also to retired people to whom they’re offering part-time jobs, with pleasant and flexible working hours as extra bait.
With regard to the typical pension payout per month, and also given the fact that there are a great many people among the population who haven’t yet ”served” their full working lives and are perfectly healthy and capable of doing so, the average pension stands at 3,665 kuna, so it comes as no real surprise that more than 5,200 retirees are currently working part-time jobs. There will likely be even more joining them as time goes on.
Croatia boasts (alright, maybe that isn’t the right word here) a large portion of the populace who don’t work, haven’t actually registered themselves as unemployed, aren’t actually looking for work, and are between the ages of 16 to 64. At the end of September last year, according to a survey taken by the State Bureau of Statistics, an extremely concerning figure of 48.4 percent of Croatia’s working-age population was economically inactive. This means that there are more economically inactive people in a normal state of health and who are perfectly capable of working than there are employed persons in Croatia. Of course, those working ”on the black” or accepting cash in hand jobs, of which there are a great many, are more difficult to account for in this instance.
The survey carried out by the State Bureau of Statistics showed that out of all of the economically inactive persons in the country, 121,000 of those inactive people do want to work, but they aren’t actively seeking employment, while 1.57 million don’t want to work because of school, their age, illness and various other similar reasons. These other reasons may also include the desire to stay home to bring up their kids, but a large number do earn a living of some sort owing to the so-called grey economy.
For a country like the Republic of Croatia, in which 4.1 million people were registered as living according to the estimates of domestic statistics, 1.7 million inactive people is a very large number of people living their lives almost entirely outside the world of work, at least officially.
Economist Dr. Damir Novotny points out that Croatia currently doesn’t have enough of a workforce in any given sector, which in one part is the result of the entirely wrong direction of the country’s social policy and in another part, owing to the opening up of the European labour market for Croatian citizens.
”There is clear research on the fact that those who are able to work are excluded from labour market. It’s one of the major problems and mistakes of [Croatian] governments over the past 10 to 15 years. We have a problem with the grey economy, we know it’s big and many who are formally [registered as] unemployed aren’t actually unemployed in reality. Thirdly, but no less significant, is the opening up of the labour market to the part of the working-active population who have a middle to high level of education, who are extremely easily integrated into the European labour market. We have these complex variables in the function of reducing working-active citizens, and on the other hand we don’t have enough immigration policies,” explained Dr. Novotny for Slobodna Dalmacija.
Employers, encouraged by the fact that today retirees can be hired as part-time workers, have decided to try to solve their problems in such a manner. Workers need them, and last year’s quota for the import of foreign workers amounted to over 30,000 work permits, and this year that number could be considerably higher, and we already know that the tourism sector, otherwise Croatia’s strongest sector, will be missing about 15,000 skilled workers.
The statistics show that the problem will become even worse as time goes on.
Because of the decline in Croatia’s overall population and extremely adverse demographic trends, the number of working-age population is continuing to decrease, and back in September last year, there were just 3.5 million working people in the country, which is 110,000 less people than there were back at the beginning of 2010. During that period, the number of economically active people fell by 102,000 people to 1.82 million, the number of those registered as unemployed was reduced by 19,000 to 1.69 million, and so the negative trend continued.
Economists warn that Croatia will need a workforce, it also needs to work hard to activate the inactive population, the long-term unemployed, younger retirees and even people with certain disabilities. Some experts, such as Dr. Danijela Nestić and Ivo Tomić from the Zagreb Institute of Economics, have calculated that Croatia can increase its overall employment levels in only a relatively small manner, even it it managed to employ all the unemployed people and part of the economically inactive people who don’t work for family reasons or because they’re discouraged in their job searches.
Discouragingly, Croatia is the European ”champion” with the most retired people who are still of working age, with the most people saying that they’re somehow incapable, or too sick to work.