Croatia’s employment issues are somewhat perplexing to many, and although there has apparently been a massive drop in unemployment, there’s only been a very slight jump in those registering as newly employed. The maths doesn’t always really add up, but unfortunately the demographic picture of the country explains it all.
As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 10th of April, 2019, at this time of year, official data on employment levels tends to heavily reflect the huge levels of seasonality Croatia’s labour market is affected by with every passing year, of course, this is primarily owing to the increased employment levels of seasonal workers before the start of the main tourist season in summer. The latest figures from HZMO (Croatian Pension Insurance Fund) from March show some growth in the number of insured persons, both on a monthly and an annual basis, with positive annual rates having continued to some degree or another since March 2015, while monthly growth began in only in February, according to analysts from Raiffeisen Bank (RBA).
Last month, the number of insured persons increased by 14,000, to a total of 1.52 million people, and it is realistic to expect that the number of insured persons will increase even more owing to the opening up of seasonal positions in preparation for the tourist season, an economic trend which could easily continue until September. When compared to March last year, the number of insured persons more than 32,000 or 2.2 percent higher.
Along with the pretty positive indicators from HZMO’s labour market information, the Croatian Bureau of Statistic’s labour force surveys are more in line with the process of the huge problem of the mass emigration of Croatia’s fit, healthy, working-age population and the demographic of an aging general population. The latest survey, in which the last quarter of 2018 was included, indicates an annual drop in Croatia’s working-age population from 3.54 to 3.52 million.
Those who are economically active in Croatia, whether they’re already working or actively looking for a job, numbered just 1.8 million at the end of 2018, which is 42,000 people or 2.3 percent less than the year before. Despite the positive economic data, the activity rate dropped from 52 to 51 percent. Activity and employment rates have, at least for some time now, been indicative of much more than just the general rate of unemployment. This applies in particular to activities that are needed in more economically developed EU countries, and jobs that tend to be given to (highly) skilled staff.
Economists have been warning for a long time that recent developments in reduce the potential for growth in Croatia in the long term. The number of unemployed people in Croatia in the last quarter of the year, according to the results of the survey conducted in the last quarter of 2018, dropped when compared to the previous year by 46,000 people, or 23 percent, to 154,000 people. At the same time, however, the number of employees increased only very slightly, by 0.3 percent, meaning just 5,000 people more, to 1.64 million. In the fourth quarter, the activity rate and the employment rate recorded lower values (51 percent and 46.6 percent), according to RBA.
In the last quarter of 2018, the numbers of economically inactive people older than fifteen increased by just one percent. Finally, the year ended with the fall of Croatia’s unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, which is also the first drop below 10 percent since 2009, the year which followed the 2008 recession, but unfortunately this is partly a consequence of Croatia’s negative demographic trend.
Although Croatia’s growth in employment is of course very encouraging, analysts warn that it should be noted that the number of employees has been growing at a mild rate for the last five years, and that the average number of employees is still 6.5 percent lower than in before the crisis back in 2008. Overall, they conclude, Croatia’s labour market remains very fragile and is burdened with some extremely serious structural problems, especially in terms of the total mismatch of supply and demand, long-term unemployment, and the falling number of working-age people for the ninth year in a row.