April 13. 2024. 5:11

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Croatian companies import more workers to tackle shortages

Croatian companies in the labour-intensive sectors of tourism, hospitality, and construction are recruiting heavily from abroad, with large numbers coming from countries such as the Philippines, Nepal, and India, local media reported on Monday.

Labour shortages have become a chronic problem for the local economy over the past several years, mainly due to a combination of mass emigration to wealthier European countries over the past decade. As one of the oldest populations in Europe, The country’s shrinking labour force and poor demographic outlook is also problematic.

According to the most recent data published last week by TPortal, the nation of 3.9 million had 1.6 million people in employment and 1.2 million pensioners at the end of 2022. Although this is the first time that the number of jobs has surpassed levels from before the 2008 financial crash – a 14-year high – the ratio of pensions vs jobs is still unsustainably low at 1:1.3 – and there are still tens of thousands of unfilled vacancies.

Although domestic companies are required by law to look into hiring locals before bringing in foreigners, the shortages are forcing the government to drop this provision for jobs experiencing critical shortages.

There are currently more than 40 professions for which companies can import workers directly, and the most sought-after jobs include waiters, line cooks, construction workers, nurses, teachers, IT experts, and truck drivers.

It is estimated that tourism alone – which according to some estimates, accounts for 20% of the Adriatic nation’s GDP – is missing some 60,000 workers ahead of this year’s summer season, which is about half of the workforce required.

But increasing numbers of foreigners working in Croatia is just one effect of labour shortages. Since many working-age Croatians have left the country over the past decade, some publicly-funded services also feel the strain.

The country’s state-run public health insurance fund announced new reporting rules on Monday in a bid to purge the system of the suspected large cohort of unemployed Croatians who moved abroad without updating their status with the authorities, meaning that they are still formally entitled to use public health services at home – despite neither paying for it nor living in the country permanently.

According to estimates cited by Novi List, this might lead to some 300,000 Croatians, or close to 8% of the population, being struck from the books. And since the government co-pays for health contributions for every Croatian covered, Novi List calculated that the move might save the government somewhere in the region of €360 million in mandatory fees that it pays itself to fund the public health system.

(David Spaic-Kovacic | EURACTIV.hr)