The Croatian Chamber of Commerce seems to support the proposal.
A recent interview by Davor Štern, a businessman and former Economy Minister, as well as the Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Croatia, who offered Filipinos as a temporary solution to the major labour shortage in some segments of Croatian economy, namely tourism, hospitality, health and construction, has provoked numerous reactions, especially among employers, and a prompt response from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, reports Večernji List on 24 July 2017.
Vice president of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) Mirjana Čagalj sent a letter to Štern, asking for more specific information on the possibility of “importing” Filipino workers. She, therefore, proposed a meeting “to listen to your suggestions and help our business people.” Čagalj says that the government has approved 2,080 work permits for skilled workers in construction, but that the quota has been used and there is still need for up to 2,500 employees. She adds that there is a shortage of as many as 3,000 employees in the tourism segment and argues that the HGK has consistently advocated for higher quotas for foreign workers, in order for Croatian companies to survive and maintain their competitiveness.
Štern said a few days ago that there was the little interest of Croats to retrain for these professions, and that it was evident that Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a reservoir of labour, was draining. He suggested the Filipinos because they are leaving their country in a manner similar to how Croats were moving to Germany in the 1970s. The Filipinos have a state agency for employment in other countries which, at the request of a foreign country, finds candidates, organises their transport, agrees on basic salaries and takes care of them. This agency, says Štern, then takes care that all of its workers return to the Philippines upon the termination of the contract. He sees it as an easy way for Croatia to at least temporarily solve the burning problem and claims that the Filipinos are known as educated and industrious people, and that Croatian net salaries of 500 to 600 euros would not be too small for them.
His proposal has provoked many negative reactions. Some are concerned that the arrival of the Filipinos would reduce wages in Croatia and at the same time increase the amount of work required from employees because the Filipinos are known for their high productivity.
Still, Štern is pleased with the HGK’s proposal for a meeting. “With this initiative, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce justifies its existence and can significantly contribute to the economic progress of the country,” says Štern. He advocates for a direct contact between the state employment agencies because he is “against chaotic employment, which would not guarantee the workers their salaries, accommodation and other rights.”
However, the government and Labour Minister Marko Pavić do not seem ready to accept the proposal. “We are not thinking about it. That is not in our focus. We are currently addressing the problem of shortage of workers through retraining, and we are looking for candidates from neighbouring countries. The arrival of Filipino workers would be a cultural shock to our people,” says Pavić.
Such bilateral arrangement with the Philippines could possibly be considered if other solutions to this problem do not produce results, but such a step would require a wider national consensus. Pavić is convinced that the government will find necessary workers in the neighbouring countries. Due to the current alarming situation, it is his priority to achieve an increase in the quota for foreign employees in the construction sector by additional 2,000 workers, which the government could adopt as early as this week. Later, the Ministry will deal with the retraining efforts, for which there is 145 million kuna secured in the budget.
Translated from Večernji List.