Although unemployment in Croatia remains high, companies are experiencing difficulties finding employees. The problem has led to intensive discussions between social partners. The Ministry of Labour and Pension System has reviewed the system of allocating quotas regarding the import of foreign labour.
Since the spring of 2016, employers in several sectors, such as construction, shipbuilding and tourism, have reported difficulties in finding suitable employees. This is the main reason why the Croatian Employers’ Association has urged the government to increase quotas for foreign workers. The Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK) organised a conference on how to provide the necessary workers for the economy and asked for a new recruitment model of foreign labour. However, observers indicate that unemployment levels remain significant. The recorded decrease of unemployment appears not to be the result of an increase in employment, but is the consequence of an ageing population, emigration and an increase in the number of temporary jobs.
Croatian trade unions believe that the problem is being exaggerated and that it can be solved by increasing wages and improving vocational training. The unions argue that this will motivate citizens to actively seek work and to stay in the country instead of going to work abroad. The trade unions are not against foreign workers entering the market, but they fear that this could be used as a mechanism to keep wages low and permitting poor working conditions.
The government is confronted with emigration of highly-skilled workers, leaving Croatia on the one hand, whilst on the other hand there is a need for skilled workers in several sectors. At the beginning of 2017, the Ministry of Labour reviewed the system of allocating quotas for the entrance of foreign labour.
The Croatian government has increased the total annual quota of work permits for foreign workers for 2017 to a total of 7,026 permits, of which 1,800 are for an extension of issued permissions and 5,226 for new permissions in 10 sectors. The overall number is significantly lower than that of the number demanded by employers (23,707), but it is still an increase compared to 2016. For construction, the approved number for 2017 is 2,080 work permits; the government has now announced plans to increase the construction quota with another 2000 work permits.