Facility Openings in Question as Croatian Tourism Sector Lacks 5000 Workers

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the Croatian tourism sector and its many companies are facing a huge problem of a lack of workers, which is why it is even questionable as to whether some facilities will bother to open their doors this season, primarily hotels. Every large tourist company is currently short of several hundred workers, as was unofficially learned.

As many claim that there ”are no people to be had” here at home on the Croatian market, because a good part of the seasonal workers have fled to secure employment in other sectors due to the pandemic, all hopes are unfortunately now being placed on foreign labour, primarily workers from outside the European Union, ie from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

This is where a new problem arises, because the procedure for obtaining a work permit for third country nationals sometimes takes up to a month, and the needs of the Croatian tourism sector are now measured in mere hours. As has been found out from the Ministry of the Interior, there are currently almost 5,000 applications for work permits being processed, meaning that very many jobs are vacant and urgently waiting for workers.

“There was a situation for which no one can be blamed, until recently employers couldn’t know how many staff they’d need, what the situation would be with the pandemic and measures, and the workers had to cope with all that. Procedures that normally take several months now need to be resolved much, much more rapidly.

The lack of workers is currently the biggest challenge facing the Croatian tourism sector, and we’re trying to find the best solutions together with the institutions in order to speed up those procedures, ie loosen all instruments for hiring foreign workers, to open all facilities for which we have demand,” said Veljko Ostojic.

Ideally, the procedure from receiving the application to obtaining the actual work permit should take a maximum of seven days in the modern day. However, although the obligation of the labour market test has been abolished for the Croatian tourism sector, which helps mildly, the system hasn’t yet been prepared or equipped to perform all the prescribed moves in such a short time.

As is known, the Law on Foreigners, an update to which entered into force on the 1st of January, abolished quotas for the employment of foreigners (third-country nationals from outside the EU), but employers are still obliged to ask whether there are such workers already present here on the Croatian market before hiring third-country nationals.

Therefore, the employer first conducts a labour market test themselves, and the Croatian Employment Service (CES) is obliged to submit the results of the labour market test to the employer within fifteen days at the latest. If it is determined that there is no Croatian worker who meets the employer’s requirements for employment, the employer may apply for a residence and work permit for a specific third-country national.

Fortunately, tourism is recognised as an activity with deficient occupations, and there is no obligation to carry out a labour market test. Employers have been given an advantage here, but this still isn’t enough, because there are still procedures to go through.

As explained by the Ministry of the Interior, after submitting an application for a residence and work permit, they determine whether the third-country national poses a threat to public order, national security and public health, or whether the third-country national is banned from entering and staying in Croatia or the Schengen area (of which Croatia isn’t a part), as well as whether or not they have submitted the prescribed evidence that they haven’t been convicted of criminal offenses in their home country.

The deadline for deciding on the application for a residence and work permit is fifteen days from the day of submitting the proper application, during which the CES determines whether or not all of the conditions for giving a positive opinion for employment have been met, and the Ministry of the Interior determines whether the conditions for issuing a residence/work permit have been met.

As has been learned from the Ministry of the Interior, by June the 21st, they had issued 7003 residence and work permits for the tourism and catering business. Of these, 1232 licenses were issued for new employment, 980 were extensions and 4791 were for seasonal employment in the Croatian tourism sector.

At the same time, by the 21st of June 2021, 11,740 applications for residence and work permits for tourism and catering activities had been submitted, which also included applications for new employment, extensions and seasonal employment.

In other words, almost 5,000 employers’ applications are still stuck in this long, drawn out process. For comparison, back in pre-pandemic 2019, 20,000 foreign workers were employed in the Croatian tourism sector, and the employment process started in February at the latest.

“We’re in constant contact with representatives of associations representing the interests of employers, in order to detect possible challenges faced by employers, as well as to find possible solutions to these challenges within the legal possibilities.

The Ministry is taking measures to resolve these requests as soon as possible, given the increased number of requests submitted for the employment of third-country nationals, especially in the field of tourism and catering.

In addition to the activities undertaken by the Ministry, as well as the CES, the precondition for resolving these requests as soon as possible is on the side of the employer. Because requests that aren’t submitted with complete documentation require additional time from officials, which ultimately affects the period of resolving requests submitted with complete documentation,” they point out in the Ministry.

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