Foreign workers to save Croatian economy?
Although there are officially about 300,000 unemployed persons in Croatia, Croatian companies are experiencing difficulties finding employees. The round table organised by the Croatian Chamber of Economy, “How to Provide Necessary Workers for Croatian Economy”, was held in Zagreb on Monday and it was concluded that this is a broader European problem of depopulation and aging of population, reports Poslovni.hr on February 29, 2016.
An additional problem is that Croatia has an unadjusted education system which does not take into account the demands of the labour market, and there are also problems with poor labour mobility and lack of lifelong learning, which leaves many middle-aged people unemployable. Davorko Vidović, a consultant for labour policy and employment at the Croatian Chamber of Economy, points out that a major problem is that the working population is too small and that in addition to 300,000 registered unemployed persons there are at least as many people of working age who are inactive.
“Europe will need to import 30 million workers in the next 20 years. Germany alone needs to import 500,000 workers a year over the next 35 years, just to maintain its current level of development. The labour shortage in Western Europe is a trend since the Second World War, but in recent years it has become more common in central Europe as well”, said Vidović.
According to data, about 5,000 work permit applications for foreigners have been officially submitted in Croatia. The previous government was slow in issuing such permits and in 2015 issued just over 200 of them. Nada Šikić, Minister of Labour and Pension System, announced that she would review the system of allocation of quotas for the import of foreign labour, but added that it was a delicate process which should be approached with care. The Minister is aware that the trend of migration of highly skilled workers from Croatia is unavoidable but also believes that it is necessary to enable sectors such as shipbuilding, tourism and construction to function normally.
While European countries are mostly counting on the potential of Arab workers, Croatia is surrounded by countries with the same or similar languages and cultural patterns – primarily Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also other countries in the neighbourhood. Statistics show that the largest number of applications for foreign worker permits comes from the shipbuilding industry, followed by the construction sector. The trade unions are not against the import of foreign workers but fear that it will be mainly used for lowering wages.