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News 01 Aug 17

Croatian Tourist Boom Runs Short of Workers

Low quotas set for foreign workers and poor work conditions are being blamed for a labour shortage in in Croatia's otherwise booming tourism sector.

Sven Milekic
A beach in the southern town of Makarska. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Jure DIVIC/DS

Despite a successful season, the Croatian tourism sector is short of at least  2,700 workers,  unions say, blaming the gap mainly on poor pay and working conditions.

Eduard Andric, president of the Croatian Tourism and services trade union, told BIRN that “poor working conditions are the key reason for the lack of workers in tourism.

“The reason I have emphasised for years is the relatively low salaries, which fall behind average ones by 17 to 20 per cent,” he said.

“Also, despite record growth in recent years and with all the investments made, instead of enlarging the number of workers employed full time, Croatian tourism has constantly lowered the numbers, while the number of seasonal workers is on the rise,” he continued.

Andric said poor working conditions deterred people from opting for careers in tourism, because they “don’t want to opt for a profession where they work [only] six months a year”.

He said the conditions in tourism remained tough, despite some improvements made in housing tourism workers on the coast.

According to him, many people who finished tourism studies in high school discontinue studies in this profession and search for work in other sectors.

A large number Croats work seasonally in tourism, especially on the Adriatic coast during spring and summer.

While reports in June spoke of a shortage of 2,700 seasonal workers, Andric said the real figure was probably much bigger, as many employers “don’t report the problem”.

In late July, Croatia's Chamber of Economy, HGK, proposed introducing the Slovenian model of employing foreign seasonal workers in tourism. This would allow for the employment of more foreign workers - but only for jobs that no domestic workers are interested in.

The HGK said Croatia needs to make its foreign workers' quota “more flexible”. For 2017, the government issued only 175 working permits for foreigners in tourism.

Davor Stern, a veteran energy consultant and former Economy Minister, told the daily Vecernji list that the state might resolve the shortage by giving more work permits to people from countries like The Philippines who would so the job for the minimum wage – around 350 euros.

While some say workers from neighbouring Bosnia - where the jobless rate is high - might also be interested in seasonal work, both Stern and Andric agreed that these workers would more likely take better paid seasonal jobs elsewhere in the EU.

Around 150,000 people directly or indirectly work in the tourism sector in Croatia, which accounts for 18 per cent of the annual GDP – the biggest percentage in Europe.

The growth in tourism in the first six months of 2017 continued into July, with 12 per cent more guests and 11 per cent more overnight stays than in July last year.

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