Croatia chronically lacks workers, only 1% of foreigners highly skilled

ZAGREB, 9 May (Hina) – In Croatia there are 100,000 foreign workers and 30,000 domestic pensioners who have returned to the labor market, but there is a chronic shortage of workers of all profiles and educational levels, the Zagreb Chamber of Commerce said on Thursday.

Croatian National Bank Governor Boris Vujčić said the Croatian labor market had a ten-year trend of continuous growth in employment and a decline in unemployment as well as rises in real wages.

He pointed out a constant labor shortage, saying it will likely continue and that it is partly due to the shrinking of the working-age population. “This is a problem that is…В being dealt with by importing labor, which has been increasing over the past four to five years, as well as by partially hiring pensioners, who are allowed to work half-time.”

It’s necessary to increase labor market participation, Vujčić said, adding that the rate of people of working age who are active in the labor market has increased by eight percentage points to 70%, while the EU average is 75%.

If Croatia were to reach the EU average, it would mean an additional 120,000 workers on the labor market and no need for foreign labor, he said.

Chamber president Josip Zaher said the challenge for employers was no longer money but the shortage of workers. Last year, between 170,000 and 180,000 work permits were issued for foreigners and there were 100,000 foreigners on the labor market. Many activities should focus on exports so that our companies could expand beyond the small domestic market, but this requires people, who are in short supply, he said.

Zaher believes domestic people should primarily enter the labor market since that generates domestic consumption.

According to him, the problem is that mostly low-skilled foreign workers come to Croatia, while highly skilled workers represent around one percent.

He said that at the beginning of the year, over 17,000 work permits were issued for foreigners just for the City of Zagreb and Zagreb County. He estimates that this year more work permits for foreigners will be issued at the national level than last year.

Asked how Croatia could attract highly skilled foreign workers, Labor Ministry state secretary Ivan Vidiš said this could be addressed by amending the Foreigners Act as attracting highly skilled workers was one of the national goals.

However, he added, the state needs workers of all qualifications.

The greatest shortage of workers is in construction and tourism.