Croatian Construction Sector Filling Up With Foreign Workers

Lauren Simmonds

croatian construction sector

July the 14th, 2023 – The share of foreign nationals employed within the Croatian construction sector is still increasing as locals with the proper qualifications become a rarer and rarer breed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the ongoing issue of labour shortages across many sectors remains a burning problem all over Croatia. It’s now expected that more and more work permits will be issued to foreign (non-EEA) employees as time goes on in order for the economy to continue to function.

Owing to this issue, the employment of foreign nationals from third countries was the topic of a recently held joint thematic session of the Parliamentary Committee for the Economy and the Committee for Labour, the Pension System and Social Partnership. One of the branches of the economy where this has been especially pronounced for many years now is the Croatian construction sector.

Croatian construction sector activities have increased

“According to almost all indicators, the growth of construction activities across the Republic of Croatia over more recent years is visible. The number of employees, the number of issued permits for foreign workers in construction, the value of the works, the number of companies operating in the sector, and the amount of income clearly point to an increase in construction activities from 2016 to today,” said Mirjana Mirjana Čagalj, vice president for construction and transport at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK).

Čagalj explained that an important growth factor is reconstruction from the earthquake, as well as funds from the NPOO and other mechanisms aimed at infrastructure. The period of low interest rates until the middle of 2022 along with the rise in inflation as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and the preparations Eurozone accession also contributed to the growth of demand for property and construction in Croatia.

Foreign workers in the Croatian construction sector made up 37.5% of the workforce in 2021

Čagalj also stated that, given such growth in activity, an increase in the number of employees is expected, as well as an increase in the share of foreign workers in the sector. Thus, back in 2016, foreign workers made up 0.9% of the workforce in the Croatian construction sector (measured by the number of approved and issued work permits), 13.2% in 2018, 26.6% in 2020, and 37.5% in 2021.

There is a lot of work and great expectations ahead of the building industry. There is currently a great need for qualified workers, especially those who have undergone both secondary and higher education, and it is estimated that further demand for workers will only continue grow, as will the share of foreign workers.

“We must be aware that the competition to attract foreign workers started a long time ago. The image of Croatia elsewhere in the world depends on each actor in the system. The main change in the tax system that concerns those employed with the lowest incomes, as well as changes to the Law on Foreigners, were certainly positive.

We must take care of making sure we have adequate working conditions in the case of the construction sector, especially when it comes to the safety of workers”, said Čagalj, pointing out that the growing number of foreign workers doesn’t mean that we should forget about the work that awaits us on the domestic front, which is the adaptation of the education system to the needs of the labour market and the popularisation of these occupations.


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