Wednesday, 17 August 2022

From Ukraine to India - Around 100,000 Foreign Workers in Croatia

August the 17th, 2022 - There are more and more foreign workers in Croatia from all over the world. There will soon be more than 100,000, in fact, with employees having come from nearby war-torn Ukraine to all the way from India and beyond.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, RTL talked about the growing number of foreign workers in Croatia, but also how we might work to retain the ''homegrown'' labour force from Croatia, with the CEO of the Croatian Association of Employers (HUP), Damir Zoric.

The Republic of Croatia will soon exceed the number of 100,000 work permits having been issued for foreign (non EEA) workers, and Zoric said that the cause of this is the large demographic changes that Croatia is still going through, the increasing numbers of the younger generation leaving Croatia to work elsewhere, and the paradoxical situation of the outflow of labour on the one hand, but also economic growth on the other.

"The Croatian economy has to find its way and now requires the import of labour," he told RTL. He also said that highly qualified workers and low-qualified workers, of which there are very many, come to Croatia.

"These are workers in service industries, primarily in tourism, hospitality and catering, they're also construction workers who are extremely needed and in high demand, and there are some of them working in agriculture in seasonal jobs. Croatia is dominated by foreigners who come from neighbouring countries, traditionally for them, Croatia is the area where they find work. There are more and more people coming from Asian countries, but also from Ukraine and the Philippines," he said.

He also said that employers only have words of praise for foreign workers in Croatia. "People praise them, saying that they're extremely hardworking, disciplined, yes, of course they need a period of adjustment, which is natural, but I don't know of a single case where people have expressed themselves in any sort of negative manner," he said.

He also commented on whether the days have passed when local workers worked in hospitality, tourism and catering establishments on the coast, considering that there are more and more foreign workers in Croatia doing such jobs. "We need to see what happens in certain Western countries. When you arrive at a hotel in Paris, it's rare to see a native Frenchman working there, these are people who have sought happiness in work and life in France. Croatia is on that path and it will not stop now," he said.

He also commented on whether foreign workers in Croatia work under conditions and for wages that Croats don't want to work for.

"Everything is a matter of the market, it's about the relationship between demand and supply. For some, a salary of 500 or 600 euros is good, for some it isn't, and that's why what is happening is that some people leave and some come," he said. When asked how we might retain the local workforce, Zoric said: "Net wages need to be higher for Croatia to be more attractive to people with a higher educational structure, more complex knowledge and more demanding occupations.''

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 23 May 2022

German Media Takes Swipe at Croatian Labour Market Struggles

May the 23rd, 2022 - Croatian labour market struggles are continuing as we hurtle rapidly towards the height of the summer season, and the German media has had a say in just what this country continues to do wrong year after year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, it is estimated that approximately 35,000 waiters, chefs, waiters, receptionists and other profiles within the tourism industry will be missing this summer. But the most striking fact is that the complaints of catering and hospitality employers are somehow always accompanied by some weird (and misplaced) sense of surprise. Everyone is surprised in a certain way, every single year, although we can certainly expect the same situation next year as well.

There's no big riddle to try and solve here. Croats typically head off to the western EU countries en masse during their working lives, because their salaries in Croatia are too low. There's not much of a labour force to speak of in Slavonia, the population of which literally flows down into the Adriatic during the summer months. There is also a huge lack in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia... The pool of personnel in Croatia's immediate neighbourhood has also been somewhat exhausted, so more and more people are reaching for tourism staff from distant Asia, as was the case earlier on in the Croatian construction sector with workers being imported into the country from Nepal, the Philippines, India, etc, writes Deutsche Welle.

The same head-scratching and shock is repeated year after year...

Wages have, on balance, risen slightly, but obviously not by enough, but employers say they have no options at their disposal to raise them even more. They also claim that they aren't in a position to raise anything else because of ongoing inflation, so one can often hear objections from the state to offering any further help. Damir Kresic, the director of the Institute for Tourism in Zagreb, spoke about this to DW:

"The state could definitely do something else, but not without working with employers and with the unions - first to develop a strategy for the whole economy. In doing so, they could answer the question of how many workers Croatia actually needs and from which professions. For years, I've been warning people in vain about this problem in tourism. But our approach is a yearly spontaneous one, and the amazement is the same every time, although the problem hasn't changed. We're really shocked by it each time, for some reason,''

Kresic then went on to explain that the solution lies in the long-term preparation of the education system, after defining sectoral needs. In addition, the Croatian labour market needs to be further regulated, so that workers receive adequate remuneration for their work, instead of a situation in which many prefer to accept income under the table, cash in hand, or simply work "on the black market", because that way they get more to play with.

After all, if it's only three or four months of work a year, there can be no question of stable employment and a strategic solution for anyone's existence. Then it would be logical for workers to go to Ireland for equal pay, but for permanent employment, let alone twice as much money in their pockets.

"Among other things, we faced certain shortcomings in the engagement of the Asian workforce in Croatian tourism. It turns out that they aren't a good solution for our employers in that sector, but now we don't have many choices, at least not for this and next season. At the same time, I have nothing against these people from another continent, so let me be clear. They can be more diligent or honest workers than us, there are no rules, so I'm not talking about that. The problem is the service industry in which the Croatian worker here always offers a better authentic experience,'' says Kresic.

In a similar way, a Croatian receptionist or waitress wouldn't be a more successful worker in the Philippines than a person from there. He went on to explain that tourism simply means contact, local experience, understanding of the context, cultural integration. "That's why we need planned staff production with adequate conditions to keep hold of people on the Croatian labour market, of course, because otherwise we'll be training them in vain,'' he concluded.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Croatian Labour Force 15,000 Employees Short for 2022 Season

May the 16th, 2022 - The height of 2022's summer tourist season is rapidly approaching, and the Croatian labour force is still missing around 15,000 employees. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the director of the Directorate for Development, Investments and Competitiveness of the Tourism Economy at the Ministry of Tourism, Robert Pende, said recently on the radio that the Croatian labour force, when it comes to the all important tourism sector, currently lacks as many as 15,000 workers, although he expects the deficit to decrease as time goes on.

"Currently, according to the information we've received from the sector itself, there are about 10,000 people who should come or be employed for this tourist year," said Pende, referring to the lack of workers in the tourism sector, which is ironically Croatia's most important economic branch.

However, he pointed out that many permits for foreign workers (meaning those from non EU-EEA countries such as neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, who require special permission in order to work here) are still in the process of being requested, so he expects those numbers to be somewhat lower eventually.

MUP is notoriously slow in processing employer requests for work permits for third country nationals such as the citizens of the aforementioned non EU countries, with cases of those would-be employees throwing in the towel and going elsewhere or only being approved for their work permit when the tourist season is already well and truly underway.

"In any case, we will have a deficit, I would say, throughout the main tourist season," Pende told HRT.

The president of the Dubrovnik County Chamber, Nikolina Trojic, said that the need at the Croatian national level is certainly between 15 and 20 thousand workers that must be introduced from somewhere.

"At the level of Dubrovnik-Neretva County alone, there are certainly at least two or three thousand people who are needed to come and work this season, so it's that many would-be employees who are missing. It's very difficult to fill that number from the Croatian labour force, and we will undoubtedly have to continue to import labour from abroad,'' added Trojic.

Dubrovnik already has a significant number of employees each summer season from nearby Trebinje, which is just over the border in the Republika Srpska governed part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that alone often causes rifts among locals who remember people from Trebinje attacking Dubrovnik thirty years ago. The issue with filling the Croatian labour force isn't only an issue economically, but on a much more personal level, with many feeling that the Dalmatian coast's many restaurants should be filled with Croatian, preferably local staff, and not those from Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia.

For more, check out our business section.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Import of Foreign Workers Hampered by Croatian Bureaucracy

November the 16th, 2021 - The import of foreign labour from outside the EEA into Croatia, typically from neighbouring countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, is proving cumbersome with the infamously slow and arduous Croatian bureaucracy.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Dario Knezevic writes, with the stil impaired liquidity due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ''getting the staff'' and having a qualified workforce is still the biggest problem of the Croatian hospitality and catering industry, especially since wages in the sector are still low and workers prefer to choose other occupations or instead opt for emigration.

Importing workers is currently an inevitable solution as the situation grows more tense, but there are a lot of problems in this regard as well, because there is a long procedure for obtaining work permits for foreigners and Croatian bureaucracy is still running at a snail's pace, hampered by draconian laws and what often seem to be senseless rules.

The sector is still plagued by high tax burdens, and the biggest problems are being faced cafes and nightclubs who suffered tremendously during lockdowns, warned participants in the Zagreb Caterers' Forum, held on Friday and organised by the Zagreb Caterers' Association and the Independent Caterers' Association.

Cafes are on the brink of survival

"Coffee bars and nightclubs have had and continue to have a very hard time surviving, when they have little or no traffic, restaurants are doing a little better because they haven't been closed for as long as bars and clubs were, and their traffic drop is around 30 percent when compared to 2019. If we fail to make more money during the advent season, we will have a very harsh winter and the number of 1,100 closed restaurants in Zagreb could increase in relation to the very beginning of the pandemic,'' warned Zakline Troskot, president of the Independent Association of Caterers.

Officially, three requests were sent from the Forum of Caterers to the City of Zagreb. They're looking for resolutions to the problem of being allowed to operate as normal in open spaces and on outdoor terraces. They are also seeking the lowering the coefficient of utility fees for these companies from 10 down to 7, as well as more involvement from representatives of those in the hospitality and catering sector when it comes to decision-making.

They want the state to reintroduce economic assistance measures to keep jobs and reimburse fixed costs, speed up the tragic state of Croatian bureaucracy, ie the process of issuing work permits for non-EU foreigners and further tax relief, in order to ensure higher incomes of employees working in the hospitality sector.

Namely, with the exception of large employers, wages in tourism and catering are still low, and many employers don't have room for raises due to the coronavirus pandemic, and workers are leaving en masse. Quality foreign workers aren't easy to come by either.

As it has been shown that workers from neighbouring countries manage and fit in much better among foreign workers than from distant cultures, the emphasis is on the search for workers in Croatia's immediate region, but the issue is that these European countries are not EEA/EU member states. This means that the paperwork and red rape is even more of a hassle for would-be employers.

The president of the Croatian Tourism Union, Eduard Andric, revealed that his union is negotiating with the Macedonian union, in order to bring Macedonian seasonal workers in an organised manner with less paperwork and fuss. According to current interest, there are about 5,000 to 10,000 of them.

At the same time, the Macedonians are willing and interested in their employers to give them some preparatory training, whether someone comes to them or they come to Croatia a little earlier for some training.

''Because as much as Macedonians are willing to work, we've had situations where they didn't know things like the names of certain drinks, the names of certain dishes, and we'd have to really educate them to make it better,'' pointed out Andric, adding that workers from that country are more desirable to work in Croatia than, for example, Filipinos, as their culture and language are closer, and communication is therefore far easier.

He revealed that they are also talking to Slovenes about a model to employ their workers in this country during the summer, and for them to go to Slovenia in the winter, which has more developed winter tourism. And this will be worked on in cooperation with the Slovenian trade union.

For more, follow our business section.

Monday, 25 October 2021

128,000 Workers Aged Under 35 Have Left Croatian Labour Market in Last 13 Years (Večernji List)

ZAGREB, 25 Oct 2021 - Some 128,000 workers aged under 35 have left the Croatian labour market in the past 13 years, so that now they account for only a third of the country's workforce, Večernji List newspaper wrote on Monday.

Under the new Labour Act, which is under preparation, workers will no longer be required to retire at 65 and will be allowed to continue working even after they meet the formal requirements for retirement, if they so wish and if there is work for them to do. Considering the present situation in the domestic labour market, many employers will turn to this age group for labour because the working age of employees has dramatically changed in the last decade and a half.

This summer the Croatian government boasted that Croatia had reached the second-highest employment rate in the last 30 years and surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which is true. However, the age structure of employees has substantially changed too, so that today only 481,000 employees are aged under 35, the newspaper said.

In 2008, the number of persons aged under 35 in the workforce was 609,000, which means that 128,000 people of the most productive working age have disappeared from the Croatian labour market in the past 13 years, which is equivalent to a city the size of Rijeka. These vacancies are increasingly being filled by older people, and considering the present trends, it can be expected that persons in their sixties and seventies will be in demand in the coming years.

The low birthrate and mass emigration are taking their toll and as a result Croatia now has 103,000 employees aged above 50 more than in 2008, namely 467,000. Over 100,000 of them will qualify for retirement in the next 10 years.  

Croatia has imported nearly 100,000 foreign workers this year to meet the labour demand and they are included in the official statistics. Their number could be even higher in the years ahead. The government has proposed in talks with the social partners that the statutory retirement age of 65 be removed, which would make it possible for people to work as long as their health and labour market conditions permit, Večernji List said.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Croatian Labour Force Issues Continue to Threaten Tourism Sector

June the 5th, 2021 - Croatian labour force issues weren't ''born'' with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and all of the economic woes it has caused, but the ongoing public health crisis certainly hasn't helped with this burning issue. Along with the epidemiological situation, this is another huge threat to the tourism industry in this country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, with the lack of foreign workers currently available, the mother of all problems for chefs has opened up, and in anticipation of a good summer season for this profession, wage offers are ranging from 10,000 kuna to top chefs who could earn about 3,000 to 5,000 euros.

Every place along the Adriatic coast lacks about 50 chefs, claims Pero Savanovic, a well-known and award-winning chef with 30 years of experience and a frequent member of the jury at international gastronomic competitions.

He has now taken over the position of head chef at Matrioska, ​​a restaurant in the Baska Voda Hotel group, but as he has run top restaurants all along the coast, and is active in Chefs Club Croatia and Chef kuha doma, he estimates that almost every hotel is experiencing a staff shortage of around 20 to 30 people, part of whom are on the chef’s team.

This, he says, can be confirmed by employment agencies: They offer staff from the region, and the least of all from Croatia, so that according to Savanovic, only auxiliary chefs are being hired from the Croatian market in a share of only 2 or 3 percent. The situation is similar with other occupations related to tourism - waiters, beach workers, gardeners….

Numerous catering and hospitality facilities are failing to find professional and quality workers amid this Croatian labour force issue, and for those who get their hands on staff through agencies, such as young chefs, they mention the problem of a low level of knowledge and will.

"The Croatian labour force issue and the shortage of staff is a serious threat to tourism. The problem that has been going on for several years because has erupted and become worse since the pandemic began as the industry had to change. When they saw that they would be out of work for a while, they turned to less risky jobs,'' explains Savanovic.

"Yes, we have a problem, even after a large number of people have retrained," confirms another well-known local chef, a member of the jury of the reality TV show Three, Two, One - Cook. Ivan Pazanin adds that Croatia experienced a huge issue in this regard ever since the pandemic struck the country.

"We need to hold tight for the next few months and after the summer we need to make an analysis and come up with an action programme. We had a gastronomic boom and now the market is experiencing that with all the good and bad consequences that come with it,'' says Pazanin, who opened a Dalmatian street food bar in the very heart of Split, inside Diocletian's Palace.

"I'm very satisfied: I came up with the concept in accordance with my preferences and now it turns out that the market has accepted it very well," says Pazanin.

The problem with chefs is also more pronounced in Zagreb's restaurants than it ever was before the pandemic. According to the head of the operations office at the RougeMarin Restaurant, Matej Kobad, the restrictive anti-epidemic measures have taken their toll, and a lot of damage has been caused by the lockdowns and closure of those facilities.

“Not only did earnings drop, people lost their jobs, but a lot of chefs and waiters switched to other industries,” he says, confirming that there are great difficulties in finding chefs, with an emphasis on auxiliary ones. Despite that, says Kobas, in anticipation of a very good summer season, they prepared a new investment and through a lease they expanded RougeMarin Park to an additional 2000 m2, where, in cooperation with the fashion.hr agency, they're developing the concept of festival events. Outdoor events are the future, as the pandemic has changed consumer habits.

This situation with Croatian labour force market has led to more and more employers in this industry importing Filipino, Indian and Nepalese workers.

For example, in Camp Bunja on the island of Brac, they had offers from four agencies for such workers. Finally, people from India were employed, with an apostille of impunity certified by an Indian and Croatian notary. It took about a week and a half, because India was in lockdown. As is well known to anyone who has attempted to engage in anything remotely administrative in Croatia, the issuing of work permits for third country nationals can take up to two months.

They now have a chef in the camp, but what if someone cancels, director Lana Ivicek wonders, revealing that they have had two such cases in the last month. First, they hired a Montenegrin chef, but while he was waiting for his papers, he found another job instead.

Then a young man from Argentina applied, and in the end a chef from Bosnia and Herzegovina was hired, for whom they are still completing the legal procedure. Ivicek says that the camp has 50 accommodation units with a bistro capacity of 60 guests. Occupancy is now at the level of 30%, but they expect 100% in the height of the season, so Ivicek believes that the procedure for hiring foreigners should be facilitated and accelerated so as to try to patch up the continued issues with the Croatian labour force.

Gordan Skoric from Danas radim believes that the reform of the Permanent Seasonal Institute is necessary, which supports the initiative to shorten the concept from six months to at least five, so that those interested in seasonal jobs can meet the criteria.

"If you're a permanent seasonal worker and have a full year of income, it's considered that you're a permanently employed person, but the season has been significantly shortened. If the conditions are set at five months, companies could hire permanent seasonal workers, and wouldn't then have to lay them off. In previous years, they'd have hired them at the end of April, counting on the season to start, which worked to some extent, but last year the season was reduced to three months,'' he explains. On the other hand, the profession is concerned about the future of the Croatian gastronomic scene.

Savanovic believes that Croatia will become focused on the import of cheap labour, and therefore poor quality will be the end result.

For more, follow our business section.

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