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News 18 Jun 15

Germany Scraps Barriers Against Croatian Workers

Germany has lifted the last working limits on Croatian nationals, while new research suggests up to 217,000 Croats will have left for work in Germany and other EU states by 2020.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Zagreb. Photo: Jaja Niseva

Germany on Wednesday lifted the last remaining working restrictions on Croatian nationals, thereby enabling them to work without hindrance in the country.

Recently published research by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, WIIW, meanwhile, predicts that Croatia will have lost between 166,000 and 217,000 workers from 2013 to 2020 as a result of migration to the rest of the EU.

Croatia has total population of 4.3 million, of whom around 3.6 million are of working age. 

Croatia joined the EU in July 2013. For  seven years after it joined, EU states are entitled to restrict the number of workers coming from the new member state. These are evaluated after two years and again after five years.

Thirteen EU member states did not impose working restrictions on Croats after the country joined the EU: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.

According to the research, about 100,000 Croatian workers by 2020will move to Germany, which has been home to a significant diaspora since the 1960s.

The research from Vienna notes that, in 2013, about 335,000 Croatian citizens lived in the EU, 286,000 of whom were of working age, older than 15. Most had been living abroad for more than a decade.

Drago Zuparic IIjic, from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, said if the data in the research are correct, it will have a significant impact on Croatia.

“Already looking at current emigration trends we can foresee significant consequences for Croatia’s demographic, economic, social, health and pension system,” he stated.

“Since it is usually the younger population who are leaving, Croatia will lose its most vital and reproductive part of the population - the population at the beginning of its working life,” he added.

People going abroad for education or temporary work and then coming back to Croatia are not a problem, he noted.

“The problem is that it is seen as something permanent, and they have no intention of returning,” Zuparic Iljic stated.

Around 90,000 people with higher education already left Croatia between 1990 and 2010. The "brain drain" is being felt especially in the health sector, but people with lower levels of education are also leaving, seeking manual work.

Since 2011, another 60,000 have left Croatia, heading mostly to Canada, the United States and Australia. Significant numbers also went to Germany, Austria and Sweden.

The outflow from Croatia forms part of a broad pattern of movement from new EU member states to older, richer ones.

Western and northern EU countries have received around 3.7 million workers from the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

The two countries that joined the EU in 2007, Bulgaria and Romania, have experienced an even bigger exodus of professionals. Around 7,000 doctors have left Romania since 2011.

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