Monday, 30 November 2020

Proposals to Employers on Monday, They Insist on Any of Their Two Models

ZAGREB, November 30, 2020 - Economy Minister Tomislav Coric said on Sunday evening that during the weekend, the government's delegation led by Finance Minister Zdravko Maric had listened to the proposals of employers for measures to ease their situation after the imposition of tighter anti-COVID restrictions. 

Coric told the RTL commercial broadcaster that the government was fully aware of the adverse impact of the latest epidemic prevention measures on certain businesses and that the government would propose compensatory measures on Monday.

We will continue implementing the scheme of grants in the amount of HRK 4,000 per employee per month, the minister said and that employers will have access to the so-called COVID loans and that some of their fixed costs would be covered through the assistance provided by the government.

All those proposals will be discussed during their meetings on Monday.

HUP expects gov't to accept one of their models of compensation 

The Croatian Employment Association (HUP) said on Monday morning that they would insist on the the acceptance of any of the two models presented by bar and restaurant owners last Thursday to help them survive the new partial lockdown, saying that otherwise many of them would go bankrupt.

The first model envisages long-term compensation by slashing VAT to 5% for three years and to 13% over a longer term, and providing job-retention aid until April 2021, i.e. HRK 4,000 per employee and writing off taxes and contributions until 1 May 2021.

They also proposed compensation of €10 per square metre of their establishment, COVID loans to ensure liquidity for three years and a moratorium on loan payments for businesses which are not allowed to work.

The second model envisages ensuring revenue for entrepreneurs in the amount of 50% of their turnover at the same time last year as a direct grant which would also be used for salaries, including a contribution write-off.

This model also envisages exemption from all fixed liabilities for the duration of the lockdown, including rent and utilities. Exemption from parafiscal levies was also proposed.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Employers Say Their Biggest Wish Is Lower Taxes and Parafiscal Charges

ZAGREB, Aug 2, 2020 - Four-fifths of Croatian companies are bracing for an economic downturn this year, and 70% of them say that the biggest help to them would be a reduction of fiscal and parafiscal charges in the next year, shows a survey conducted by the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP), which has about 6,000 members.

Furthermore, 36% of those polled say that their priorities are better transparency, digitalisation and a smaller and more efficient state and public administration. They are also hoping for longer deferrals of tax payments during the corona crisis.

One in 12 employers expect a rise in revenues

The survey, conducted in June, shows that as many as 78% of employers expect a decline in their revenues in 2020 in comparison to 2019, and half of them expect a fall of above 20%. On the other hand, 14% of those polled expect the same level of revenues as in the previous year, while eight percent expect a rise in their revenues this year.

The HUP acting director-general, Damir Zoric, said that the findings of the survey show that the priority of employers is a further reduction of the tax burden.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Croatia's Largest Employer: Emil Tedeschi on Employee Retention

As reported by Marina Šunjerga/Poslovni Dnevnik on November 13, 2019; Emil Tedeschi, the largest real-sector employer in Croatia, reveals two of the most important factors in employee retention. He currently employs more than 5500 people in the Atlantic Grupa company.

This year Poslovni Dnevnik and Vecernji List will again present the most prestigious business awards in the country. The award of “Master of Business” and “Economic Event of the Year” will be presented to the most successful and strongest businessman and event in Croatia, whose business or influence crucially impacts economic trends in the country and improves the economic and social climate.

Emil Tedeschi, after leaving Ivica Todorić's business sphere, is the largest real-sector employer in Croatia. Atlantic Grupa, which has generated HRK 4 billion in sales revenue in the first nine months of this year, has continued to develop since the 1990s, when it emerged on the regional scene, taking over numerous companies, among which Droga Kolinska is the most famous, of course.

Ambience and Security are Important

Tedeschi, who currently employs more than 5500 people, recently announced that he is seriously considering introducing a four-day work week. 

“I am sad that we are successful in a failed society. For years, I have been talking about the responsibility of the elite but will continue to insist that people in high positions in different spheres of society also carry a responsibility. In the past, the saying "noblesse oblige" was valid, the nobility obliged, and today it can be said that the leadership obliged. Along with the various benefits that a leadership position carries, it entails far more obligations and responsibilities than the wider community,” he expressed to Vecernji List. In this context, Tedeschi is working on managing and implementing new business practices within his company. He is among the first entrepreneurs to make the most of the opportunity offered by tax reform to reward employees, and last year gave them additional bonuses of HRK 7,500, which are non-taxable under new regulations. He is also considering introducing a four-day work week. Tedeschi explained that he wants to attract a workforce of professionals, but, more importantly, devise a effective way to retain them. The most important factors in retaining a good employee are ambience and security, he indicated.

"Responsible employees are also concerned with a range of benefits which include a quality work environment, a corporate culture and a good balance of leisure and work, and we are seriously considering a four-day work week," Tedeschi said.

This new global trend has already shown results, so it has been empirically proven that employees who work on this model are 20 percent more productive than employees who have more traditional working hours. The four-day workweek movement has since expanded everywhere, with most of the advocates appearing in the UK and Germany, where it has been embraced by many small businesses offering a wide range of intellectual services. In the context of his view that entrepreneurs must have a social responsibility, he gave a talk in which he took on the role of a social chronicler, and not a businessman, but analysts were not surprised by the appearance of this businessman.

At the time, he said at that Croatia had two resources: people and nature, but people are still leaving! He added that it would be great if we only had ideas of ​places for them to return.

He Will Not Remain Silent About Todorić

Lately, Tedeschi has been speaking very openly about the 'Croatian silence' in the Agrokor case, particularly, how our society allowed 'that Frankenstein of Agrokor management' to happen, and to Vecernji List he claimed that "Todorić acted as a sultan, he made his own decisions, and by his way of running the company he blundered not just a decade but an epoch."

His Atlantic Grupa originated from the acquisition of several trading companies but has grown into a company that boasts significant production. The most famous brands in Croatia are Cedevita and Barcaffè. However, after taking Droga Kolinka under the Atlantic umbrella, they have also acquired the Donat and Cockta brands. The well-known Argeta and Smoki brands, which are produced by the Soko Štark factory, are produced under the company as well. Lovers of local delicacies are also familiar with the Bakina tajna brand, but its financial impact is only a minor part of Atlantic Grupa's business.

Follow our business section for more updates and developments in Croatia.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Croatian Employment Rate Increases, Remains Less Than Pre-Crisis 2008

As Frenki Lausic/Novac writes on the 10th of August, 2019, the number of insured persons exceeded 1.6 million at the end of July and reached the figure of 1,600,405, according to data from the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute. This means that compared to pre-recession July 2008, when the figure stood at 1.639 million, there are only 39,000 insured persons less.

Thus, the total number of insured persons at HZMO increased by 0.4 percent on a monthly basis and 2.4 percent on an annual basis, meaning that compared to July 2018, the number of insured persons increased by 37 thousand.

The number of insured persons at HZMO has in recent years almost taken the lead in determining the number of employees in Croatia, although two other methods are officially used, and both of them show employment growth.

According to data from the Croatian Central Bureau of Statistics, according to the so-called “administrative method” used by the Croatian Tax Administration, the number of employees in June stood at 1,451,541 and in June 2018, it stood at 1,432,701, which means that in June 2019, the number of employees increased by 19 thousand at the annual level.

However, due to changes in the method, it isn't possible to compare 2008 and 2019 according to the above-mentioned statistics. According to a third method, a labour force survey, also conducted by the CBS, which is also the official statistical method recognised by the European Union, ie the Eurostat umbrella statistical authority, the number of employees is increasing.

According to the labour force survey, for the first quarter of this year, the number of employees on Croatian territory stood at 1.66 million, while in the same quarter of 2018, it was 1.61 million. According to this method, the number of employees increased by 50 thousand. Still, there remains a big difference in the recording of employment growth between the CBS, HZMO and the labour force survey.

For example, in June this year, the number of HZMO insured persons increased by 40 thousand and the number of employees under the CBS administrative method increased by 19 thousand. This is partly explained by the fact that one who is unemployed can pay for his/her own pension, or simply work abroad.

Thus, at the end of June, of 1.59 million HZMO policyholders, 1.36 million were employed by legal entities, 122,193 were employed by natural persons, 66,933 were employed in an obrt (craft), 19,628 were insured farmers, 19,314 were insured in independent professional activities, 88 of them were insured persons employed by international organisations abroad and Croatian nationals employed on the territory of the Republic of Croatia with employers based abroad, while 4715 had extended insurance.

Croatia reached the level of gross domestic product from 2008 this year, and in all likelihood, it will reach the same level of policyholders as back in 2008. This, despite the differences compared to the dynamics of growth provided by the CBS administrative method, nevertheless speaks of a positive dynamic in the the labour market, especially when looking at the labour force survey, but it would be good for CBS and HZMO to finally do something about too much "discrepancy" when it comes to their respective numbers and methods.

RBA analysts, who analyzed HZMO data for July this year, noted that, despite seasonal fluctuations in the labor market, positive annual rates of growth in the number of policyholders have been present since the second quarter of 2015, reflecting the recovery in economic activity and, consequently, the strengthening of labor demand. The growth of insured persons on a monthly basis of 6822 persons is a consequence, they note, of growth in many industries.

However, they emphasise that the noticeable and expected growth in the number of insured persons in the provision of accommodation and food preparation and services is a mere consequence of seasonal employment and an increasing orientation towards tourism-related activities.

In these sectors, the monthly growth of insured persons amounted to 4343 or 3.4 percent, while, on the other hand, the education sector (as it has in previous years) recorded a sharp decrease in the number of insured persons in July, totaling 2656 or 2.4 percent less, but their numbers are likely to increase in September with the turning of a new academic year.

At the annual level, the largest contribution to the growth of insured persons came from the construction industry, in which the total number of insured persons in July amounted to 114,438 persons, which marks 7.5 percent growth on an annual basis.

“In the first seven months of 2019, the average number of insured persons amounted to 1.549 million, which is 2.3 percent or 34,487 more than in the same period in 2018. The largest contribution to the growth of the average number of insured persons in the first seven months came from the construction industry whose share in the total of insured persons is 7.2 percent. With an average annual growth of 7.3 percent in the January-July period, a relatively high contribution to the overall increase of 22 percent is in line with present positive trends in construction,'' RBA's analysts said.

The largest number of employees, ie insured persons, are still in the manufacturing industry (16 percent, or 248,324), but after a slowdown in 2018, the annual number of policyholders since January 2019 has recorded a decrease in the number of policyholders annually in this industry (manufacturing participates with 80 percent in the overall Croatian industry).

Moreover, as the analysts point out, there is also a slight acceleration in an unfavourable trend, and in July the fall in the number of policyholders in the manufacturing industry was one percent per year. Thus, on average, 2.8 percent fewer persons were insured in manufacturing in the first seven months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.

"This is very likely due to the fall in manufacturing output in 2018 and its modest growth in 2019. The growth in the number of policyholders will continue in the coming months, so according to this indicator, employment growth could amount to about two percent," the RBA analysts concluded.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and lifestyle pages for much more on the Croatian economy, the Croatian employment rate, and Croatian companies, products and services.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Copernicus Program Presented in Zagreb, 48,000 Chances for Employment?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 7th of June, 2019, Venice is sinking, the Berlin metro is going to collapse into the earth, and the surface of the earth has risen in some places by up to two metres after the earthquake in Japan and the nuclear disaster in Fukushima - all this is what we know today thanks to the European Space Agency and the European Commission - Copernicus, worth more than ten billion euros, and presented recently at the premises of the Croatian Employers' Association in Zagreb.

This ambitious program monitors the atmosphere, the oceans, and the earth's land surface, it is based on a satellite system designed for observing the earth, and the use and application of its data open up great opportunities for the Croatian economy.

At the program's presentation, prof. dr. sc. Željko Bačić from the Zagreb Geodetic Faculty highlighted the fact that the European Commission's studies show that by the year 2030, in terms of jobs directly related to Copernicus, as many as 48,000 work positions will be opened.

"By 2035, EO-based business and services will be worth 131 billion euros. Since Croatia represents 1 percent of the EU, we can draw a parallel and say that in Croatia alone, this segment of digital business should amount to 1.3 billion euros, which is now the volume of the total IT business in Croatia,'' Bačić said.

"We're well aware that information today is extremely important, but information that is spatially defined is of particular importance and concerns the geodetic profession. Geoinformatics is taking on an increasingly important role and combines classical geodesy and information technology, and geodetic and information technology companies are increasingly growing.

The interest of our profession is the faster development of geoinformatics. Here I see the potential and the prosperity for the economy and for the general population. We're happy to be involved in this project and we gladly responded to it. Collaboration with academic institutions is of utmost importance, so, we can see the importance of this project,'' said Željko Perić, president of the HUP Association of Geodetic Geoinformatics.

According to Boris Dril, President of the HUP Association for Information and Communication, this program is an excellent fit to the national coalition for digital skills and jobs, with the aim of developing an information and communication economy in Croatia. "It's not a scientific project in a lab that is only relevant to a narrower circle of people, but a research product to be applied to real life and show its value," Drilo stated.

To briefly recall, Copernicus was initially created to develop earth-based information services, satellite and in-situ data analysis, and the various services it provides helps to correctly address some of the most difficult environmental challenges we face today, such as food safety, sea levels rising, natural disasters, urbanisation, glaciers melting, and the comprehensive topic of climate change.

This Zagreb conference was taken from Estonia's shining example, which used its data to check if farmers were actually following the basic conditions for the use of agricultural subsidies. In this way, Copernicus helped to reduce the misuse of subsidies, and the savings yielded from that side of things alone amounted to about 500,000 euros a year.

It was also used for the mapping of groundwater floods in Ireland. Thanks to Copernicus, flood data can now be collected at a level that was previously considered inaccessible and thus provided timely information to the relevant bodies. Sentinel satellites used in the program can also be useful in discovering hidden cultural heritage sites for which we've searched for decades, as well point to hidden archaeological artefacts.

"Unlimited ways of applying this fascinating data that can strongly affect the future of the earth will soon be able to be contributed to by Croatian developers, entrepreneurs, and professionals of various profiles, as well as students and students through Copernicus Hackathon, a 24-hour contest where teams will create applications for data use,'' said Copernicus Hackathon's organiser, Zvonimir Nevistić, from the Zagreb Geodetic Faculty.

The aforementioned contest will be held on October the 23rd and 24th this year, with the aim of creating content that can significantly improve the quality of life, the economy, or the environmental protection in the chosen area of ​​application.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and lifestyle pages for more. If it's just Zagreb you're interested in, give Total Zagreb a follow or check out Zagreb in a Page.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

300 New Work Positions to Open in Vinež Industrial Zone, Istria

Istria is set to open up new possibilities for employment with the construction and expansion of numerous companies operating within the Vinež industrial zone.

When it comes to finding work or starting a business in Croatia, you're likely to be met with little but negative and somewhat depressing headlines. Reading about the state of the economy is enough to send anyone into a spiral of depression, but if you scrape below the surface a little, you'll see that not everything is quite so bleak in reality.

As Glas Istre/Branko Biocic writes on the 4th of June, 2019, other companies also operating within the Vinež industrial zone in Istria also have plans for the expansion of their respective plants, and the MCZ factory is working on its third line for pellet boiler production, the Bibetech plant is currently planning to build a new three-thousand-square-metre hall, and an additional building of another service-grade hall.

While plans are being ''cooked'', the construction of another hall in Istria's Vinež industrial zone has actually begun. This is part of the project of the company Danieli Systec, which started work on the construction of a new production hall covering a significant three thousand square metres. Works should be completed by the end of this year, and everything will be fitted with electrical cabinets.

This is one of the investments that further raises the level which has already been marked as one of the top three in the Republic of Croatia.

In addition to this particular investment, the aforementioned company is also looking forward to the arrival of an extremely interesting company, Novation TEch. This company hails from the Italian town of Montebelluna, which manufactures parts of carbon fibers, and boasts factories in Italy and neighbouring Hungary.

The plan of this renowned company that manufactures carbon fiber parts for well-known world brands such as Formula1, as well as numerous automotive giants such as BMW and McLaren Mercedes and parts of aerospace industry, is to begin construction early in autumn and in March of next year, it aims to start working on production.

In its plant, Novation Tech plans to employ as many as ninety workers in the next two years, of which thirty will gain employment at the very beginning of the factory's functioning, giving those looking for work in Istria a reason to brush up their CV's.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Enormous Investment: Boeing and Airbus Parts to be Produced Near Zagreb

More than excellent news for the Croatian job market and the domestic economy as a whole as as many as 600 jobs are set to be opened in Zagreb County thanks to a huge investment.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of May, 2019, parts for the aviation giants Boeing and Airbus will be produced in the Republic of Croatia. The parts will be incorporated into the world's most famous aircraft and their engines, including names like Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, and Rolls-Royce. The news was announced on Wednesday by Večernji list, citing that the Austrian aeronautical company FACC is beginning to construct a production plant for the interior parts of planes in the business zone of Jakovlje in Zagreb County, close to the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

The investment is worth a massive 33 million euros and will open up 600 jobs. The land has already been purchased, the necessary permissions and the permit have been granted and the construction has begun. The plant should be completed by the end of 2020 and production at the plant will commence in 2021.

This great news has also been confirmed by the head of the aforementioned Austrian company Robert Machtlinger, who stated that FACC wants to grow and be quicker than the market and intends to work on strengthening the expertise of its employees. "Zagreb is offering us this because it has a highly qualified workforce," he added.

The company chose between different locations in Central and Eastern Europe and ultimately decided on Zagreb. The sale contract has already been signed, and the Austrian company has become the owner of the land in the Jakovlje business area, totalling 130 thousand square metres.

Vecernji list also revealed that a meeting will take place on Wednesday in Banski Dvori where the President of FACC AGI's management board and the president of AVIC Cabin Systems Co. Limited from China, a company which owns 55.5 percent of the Austrian company, will talk to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Economy Minister Darko Horvat and State Secretary Zdenk Lucić about the project implementation and everything that goes into the planning and licensing phase.

The plan is that construction work on the plant will be completed by December 2020, and production will begin no later than April 2021, according to Dnevnik.

As a daughter company of the Chinese state-owned company Aviation Industry Corporation of China, one of the ten largest Chinese companies, FACC, based in Austria, is part of the global market and cooperates with world leaders in the aviation industry such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce. FACC is otherwise a company with more than 3,400 employees from 38 countries which work in thirteen locations worldwide, Vecernji list writes.

They added that un the financial year 2018/2019, they earned 781.6 million euros in revenue, an increase of 4.5 percent compared to the previous financial year, and also the best result in the company's thirty-year history.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Ludbreg Company Offers Workers ''German'' Pay and Benefits

As Sergej Novosel Vuckovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 26th of May, 2019, Sigetec Ludbreški, part of Ludbreg in Varaždin County, has a population of around only six hundred people, and every day there are more than a hundred workers coming to work at Inoxmont-VS, which deals with metalworking, the concrete assembly of industrial plants and equipment and more.

They manufacture and install industrial process equipment for steel, they perform pre-production and the mounting of brackets, and various other parts of industrial plants. It is definitely difficult and demanding work, but it's fairly paid

There are about 170 people in operation here and abroad as posted workers, and the average salary is about 9,000 kuna. And that's just the starting pay, experienced ''masters'' get up to 23,000 kuna, or 3,000 euros. So, we are not in Germany, where Croats are more than happy to keep heading to, but in the north of Croatia, a county where the average salary is less than 5000 kuna.

How is that possible?

''It's possible with us. And we should point out the fact that since May the 1st, our average salaries are even higher, we raised them by about five percent," said the co-owners of the aforementioned company, Mladen Vidović and Zlatko Sova. They believe that the workforce is the foundation of their business and strives to ensure them the best possible conditions because ''things can only develop in such a way''.

"We're constantly investing in technology, but even moreso in our workforce.For those who work as installers and welders on construction sites and under difficult conditions, we have implemented good work benefits, for a year we pay for fifteen months of their pensions and other allowances. Those who go abroad and work are provided with housing and transportation, only through the care of your employees can you deliver the quality service that is being sought from us,'' say the directors of this Ludbreg company.

Despite the already-described benefits and this Ludbreg company's almost magnetically attractive working conditions, Inoxmont still shares the same fate of many operating within the metal industry, and they're facing a deficit of workers. At the moment, they have open positions.

In the local ''pool'' of Varaždin and Međimurje County, where they have the largest number of workers, there still aren't enough of them, and even the ''production'' of staff from throughout Croatia doesn't look like its going to be promising any time soon. Before even enrolling in high school, minors seem to already be picturing themselves abroad, having run away from the ailing metal industry.

"We talked with the director of the Varaždin Mechanical Engineering School, only six students enrolled in the field of construction in the construction sector, they are the only ones in Croatia who have enrolled in this subject. In vocational professions, of course, there's a lack of qualified workforce, and we're also feeling it.

We also talked to pupils who are interested in the position of CNC operator from Ludbreg High School, and they said that they were going to leave Croatia immediately after completing their schooling, and we tried to explain that they had come out of school without the necessary practical knowledge, ans when they either go to Germany or wherever else, they'd be negotiating not as an equal partner with an employer but would be begging for jobs. Along the same lines, no matter how long they spend in another country, they will always be foreign,''

The co-owners are more than aware of the problems Ludbreg's Inoxmont faces, which, moreover, boasts workers from across the country, as well as from Hungary and Bulgaria.

Their attitude towards the import of labour is therefore clear.

"It's necessary to increase import quotas or just abolish them, but that's a fire-fighting solution, primarily to motivate people and stop them from permanently leaving the Republic of Croatia, but we all have to work on it, we give the maximum, we provide our workers with good conditions, but the Government must stand behind us,'' say Vidovic and Sova.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Sergej Novosel Vuckovic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Monday, 20 May 2019

National Action to Keep Educated Youth in Croatia Held in Zagreb

As VLM/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 20th of May, 2019, two respected Croatian newspapers, Večernji list and Poslovni dnevnik, in cooperation with the University of Zagreb and the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, are set to organise a round table entitled Future in Croatia and a ''time travelling'' exhibition through Večernji list's history.

After successful events already held in Osijek, Koprivnica, Rijeka, Zadar and Split, Zagreb will now play host to this national action launched by the Vecernji list group with the ultimate goal of retaining young educated people here in Croatia in the face of continuing and concerning negative demographic trends.

The event will be opened by Večernji list's Andrea Borošić, Prof. dr. sc. Lorena Škuflić and Prof. dr. sc. Damir Boras.

The Zagreb roundtable will discuss the vital importance of the retention of young and educated people here in the Republic of Croatia, and will be attended by numerous significant figures from across the spectrum of both politics and science in Croatia who have succeeded in standing out in their respective fields.

The first part of the program will conclude with the official opening of Večernji list's exhibition "We've been together for 60 years", which, through interesting and interactive content, will present the rich history of Croatia's media leader, along with an introductory speech from the curator.

At the very end of the program, an interactive forum will be held during which a student contest in writing projects will presented, and the present Večernji list group will reward the excellence of Croatian students.

Guests will be Podravka's dr. Sc. Jasmina Ranilović, PLIVA's Blagica Petrovac Šikić, UVI eSports d.o.o.'s Marko Komerički and the directors and founders of the company Hodajuće reklama Tino Vrbanović and Ante Starčević, who will present their encouraging and successful business ventures and projects which have been realised here in Croatia to all those gathered there.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and lifestyle pages for much more. If it's just Zagreb and what's going on in the capital you're interested in, follow Total Zagreb or check out Zagreb in a Page.

 

Click here for the original article by VLM on Poslovni Dnevnik

Sunday, 28 April 2019

More Than Third of Graduates with Diplomas in Croatia Unemployed

As Mirela Lilek/Novac writes on the 27th of April, 2019, Croatia's situation still isn't good: the country is continuing to ''produce'' graduates with the third lowest employment rate in the whole of the European Union, and as a result, taxpayers pay more and more money for them. According to new data from Brussels, based on a comparative survey of youth employment among Croats with diplomas earned in the last three years, a third of highly educated people aged between 20 to 34 in Croatia have no jobs. Only Italy and Greece are worse.

Of the 28 countries EU member states, Croatia ranked 26th with a 66 percent employability rate. Four positions above Croatia lies Romania, Bulgaria is six places above, and Slovakia is nine places above. Croatia's neighbour to the north, Slovenia, is eleven places above Croatia, Poland is thirteen places above (impressively right behind Ireland and Denmark), and the Czech Republic, with an 89.9 percent employability rate which has impressed the European Commission's experts - has risen to an enviable fourth place.

Malta is in first place in Europe as an employer of its graduates with diplomas, the employment rate of Maltese students stands at a very impressive 94.5 percent, even better than Germany, which boasts a rate of 90.9 percent, followed then by the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and then Austria. The EU average is on the rise, back in 2014 it stood at 76 percent and in 2018 it stood at 80.2 percent. Unfortunately, the Croats have been close to the bottom for years, more specifically for fifteen years, as it has a below-average rate of employability in relation to the EU. Of course, rather than attempt to fix the problem directly, the Croats are doing what the Croats always do - continuing to debate and argue over who is (more) to blame for such embarrassing conditions.

Economists see the issue as being that the Croats aren't adapting easily to the market, and that Croatia also has an old education system. At Croatia's universities, they argue that the key issue isn't Croatia's higher education institutions, but an underdeveloped labour market, low personal income, and demotivating working conditions. Experts from the European Commission have given a relatively simple answer: Investing in education will benefit everyone in Europe.

Let's see how they explain their theories in some of the country's universities, starting with the largest "producers" of graduates in the entire country, the Faculty of Philosophy and Economics in Zagreb.

''We're aware of the importance of linking study programs and labour market needs. In this regard, the Faculty of Economics makes an effort to make it easier for students to access the labour market by establishing multilateral cooperation with companies and respectable institutions that enable students to perform high-quality professional practices,'' stated Sanja Sever Mališ, who deals with strategic partnerships and projects at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. The basic message from this particular Zagreb university is that "they connect students and employers so their best students can find work even during their studies." Therefore, there is no concern for them.

On the other hand, Vesna Vlahović-Štetić, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, admits that Croatia's humiliating placement at the bottom of the employability scale of graduates is still something to be very concerned about and therefore the causes of that need to be looked at.

''I assume that part of the problem lies in insufficient development and the ability of the economy and the public sector to absorb newly graduated students. On the other hand, the question is how many colleges and higher education institutions meet the needs of society with their respective programs. At the state level, in some professions there's hyper-production, and in others there is a lack of experts. Additionally, study programs should be regularly updated and developed to meet not only society's needs but also predict what competences professionals will need in the future,'' the dean says.

Data obtained through the HKO project of the Faculty of Philosophy shows that the employability of their students in the year after graduation is 75 percent. They believe this is the result of "the excellent professional and generic competences of their graduates".

"We're convinced at the Faculty of Philosophy that the study programs need to be further improved, so we have just started the study reform process and I'm sure the future employability of our students will be even better," says the university's dean.

The rector of the University of Rijeka, Snježana Prijić Samaržija, doesn't want to run away from the fact that Croatia's universities do hold a share of the responsibility for this issue but, again, she's convinced that Croatia's higher education institutions are't the key cause of the problem, but the underdeveloped labour market definitely is.

Rijeka University has eleven faculties and four departments. On their official page, they point out that they are a modern European university and a centre of excellence within the region and beyond, and that they are responsible for the social and economic development of the community. Samardžija claims that she doesn't want to relate the worrying data on the high rate of unemployed with higher education, but that "it should be borne in mind that higher education is a better job-finding guarantee, such as landing a permanent position,"

"Of course, it's possible to say that the employment rate would be higher if universities, by some automation, increased their quotas for the job-type deficit and reduced those profiles for which the employment bureaus take care of. In that sense, people often say Croatia's institutions and their enrollment policies aren't adapted to the labour market. However, the situation isn't quite that simple.

For example, the market seeks shipbuilding engineers, we have shipbuilding studies and a corresponding quota at the University of Rijeka, but there's a fall in interest for those studies. We can understand the students' fears about the situation with Croatia's shipyards, but the fact is that the need for this profession is still growing. Similarly, despite the lack of mathematics and physics teachers and the excellent studies we have, the interest doesn't match the employment opportunities,'' she explained.

The University of Rijeka decided to put seven studies ''into retirement'' this year, and isn't accepting students for them. Those are acting and media, dental hygiene, computer science in combination with professional studies of medical-lab diagnostics, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding, and electrical engineering.

On the other hand, there's a considerable level of interest in studies that don't guarantee quick and permanent employment at all, such as the arts, cultural studies, and psychology.

''Young people choose studies according to their personal interests, not just employment opportunities. They don't necessarily just want a permanent job, many of them are accustomed to gaining work experience in different institutions, at different places of work, and in different countries. More and more, they prefer to individually define the curriculum through courses and practical competences beyond their study program(s), which will make their expertise comparatively more special and desirable. In the midst of a sluggish and non-ethnological labour market, more and more students enjoy prolonged youthful relationships with their parents or rent apartments,'' says Snježana Prijić Samaržija.

"I don't want to run away from the responsibility of the university, we're constantly thinking about the jobs of the future, we're working on increasing the quota for the deficit professions and improving our students' competences to reduce the unemployment rate. However, time is needed to see the results of these measures because the higher education cycle lasts for at least five years. It should be understood that universities can't just simply increase quotas for occupations for which there's a labour market need because new employment is frozen,'' noted the Rector of the University of Rijeka.

As Croatia's paradoxical situation of having no work but plenty of jobseekers, yet plenty of work and no staff, it's hard to predict the outcome of education system reforms as the market and its needs can alter so rapidly. Will Croatian students simply continue to trickle away on the stream of a proverbial leaking tap out into Western Europe, leaving Croatia with the rather unenviable title of a country that educates its citizens for work abroad? It's likely such a scenario will continue at least for the foreseeable future. Whether or not Croatia will manage to make the necessary alterations to fix that aforementioned ''leaky tap'' in time remains to be seen.

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Click here for the original article by Mirela Lilek for Novac/Jutarnji

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