December 10, 2018 — Croatia still hasn’t found a strategy to address its rapidly shrinking workforce, according to Poslovni Dnevnik. The effect on the economy — from investment to exports — will be hard to predict.
In the following year, the Croatian economy will lose more than 50,000 workers, according to a recent poll conducted by members of the Croatian Chamber of Economy.
At least as many people left the country last year, about half of 100,000 who left Croatia since the country joined the European Union.
The figures are probably an underestimation based on unreliable data — few people declare they’re leaving Croatia for good or where they’re headed.
Nonetheless, Croatia still has no strategy of addressing the rapidly falling labor shortage, aside from stopping emigration in the next few years.
All this will have a significant impact on the slowdown in economic activity in the country, according to participants of the International Migration Conference.
“While the situation is alarming, we see no serious attempts to address the many causes and remedies of the consequences of the staff crisis and all that it carries,” said Davorko Vidovic, Labor Policy Advisor and Employment at the Chamber of Economy.
He added structural problems such as a low level of lifelong learning to late entry and early exit from the workforce create a labor vacuum then exacerbate by emigration.
The number or profile of people leaving Croatia remains largely unknown. Some data suggests it is mainly working-age adults who have finished university.
Krešimir Ivanda, Ph.D. at the Department of Demography of the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, said the country’s options are limited.
Some demographic measures — encouraging remaining Croats to stay and procreate — can only deliver results after at least 25 years. Another option — importing workers — is increasingly encouraged by employers. The short-term fix comes at a cost, though.
Importing workers also brings its headaches. The professor’s analysis suggests immigrant workers succumb to many of the same structural problems that befall Croatia’s workforce.
The emigration and labor shortage could perhaps lead salaries in Croatia to grow, especially in the sectors where workers are most missing. But it’s a double-edged sword.
Less developed areas of the country will not be able to keep pace with growth, resulting in regional wealth disparities within the country.
Yet emigration isn’t a full-blown negative trend.
The diaspora offers a significant source of money through family and friends or through direct investment. Yet this recent wave of emigration doesn’t match previous waves, when breadwinners left their families and sent money back home. Today, whole families pack up.
“If we continue at this pace of emigration and declining work, Zagreb as one of the strongest economic centers in Croatia will lose one third of the active population by 2051, with 440,000 active citizens going to 309,000,” Ivanda said.