Agriculture in Crisis Due to Lack of Seasonal Workers

By 28 August 2017

Most seasonal workers have fled to the coastal areas or abroad.

In addition to tourism, demand for seasonal workers is high in the agricultural sector as well, especially in the eastern part of Croatia, where a large part of the population lives from agriculture, reports Glas Slavonije on August 28, 2017.

Numerous agricultural companies from Osijek-Baranja County have published employee-seeking ads, particularly for the fruit and vegetable picking. They are looking for workers for simple gardening and horticultural works and pickers. Since a large number of unemployed people from Slavonia have gone to work overseas or the Adriatic coast, farmers are having an increasingly hard time finding good seasonal workers.

Any unemployed person can apply to work as a seasonal employee, as well as retirees and all other job seekers who are not in permanent employment. Minors and individuals on a maternity and parental leave cannot work.

The seasonal offer of jobs in Slavonia and Baranja region is largest for pickers of fruit – apples, grapes, pears and peaches. Despite good pay and machines that further facilitate the job, there are few applicants. The picking season started in early July and will end in November when last apple crops are harvested.

Ivan Bašić says that he needs, in addition to 13 permanent employees, many seasonal workers for his 14 hectares of land. “There are very few people who have come to work, most of them elderly about the age of 50, with a few younger students and unemployed persons. The situation is much worse than in the past because we do not have quality workers who have been working with us in the past years and have now gone to the coast or abroad,” says Bašić, who offers a wage of 17.5 kunas per hour.

Seasonal workers are mostly employed using so-called “stamps,” which are daily coupons which each employer buys from the Financial Agency (FINA) for 20.89 kunas and uses them to pay daily contributions for pension and medical insurance of temporary workers. The Ministry of Labor and Pension System says that this year it has sold 216,905 value coupons for seasonal work in agriculture, with 66,357 coupons being sold just in the Osijek-Baranja County.

A company from Baranja also cannot find enough workers, not just for the summer season, but throughout the year. “The harvest and picking period lasts from mid-June to the end of November, and the greatest demand for workers is in mid-August. Every year, there are fewer, and fewer interested employees and most of them never come to work or give up after a day or two. Some of the workers actually do not want to work, but send their applications just to retain the status of social welfare recipients,” says a company representative.

The Croatian Employment Service confirms that the problems are the lack of seasonal workers with previous work experience and the lack of interest and motivation of candidates, which is further confirmed by the fact that the number of unemployed people who used to work in agriculture has been declining for years.

Translated from Glas Slavonije.