A many citizens are debating leaving the country, the government promises to improve the situation by next year.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 28/08/12
Unemployed Croatians check job availability at an unemployment office in central Zagreb. [Reuters]
Croatia's unemployment rate is continuing to rise, despite programmes enacted by the government to address the problem before the country enters the EU next year.
The jobless rate for August was 17.5 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent from the previous month, the Croatian Employment Service announced on August 22nd. More than 300,000 workers are unemployed and more than 100,000 workers were laid off in the last five years.
The situation is particularly difficult in the construction business. Ivan Kovacevic, president of the Croatian Union of Construction Workers, said that in the past four years more than 30,000 construction workers have lost their jobs.
"The situation is extremely difficult. Construction workers have received 5,000 layoffs only in the first six months of this year," Kovacevic told SETimes. "This government has done very little to improve this situation. Thousands of empty flats are evidence that the standard of living [has fallen] dramatically. By joining the EU, workers will certainly look for a job in western countries because there is no work here anymore."
The situation is not any better for the country's youth. According to the Croatian Youth Network, an NGO dealing with the rights of youth, Croatia has the third-highest rate – 38 percent – of unemployed youth, trailing only Spain (53 percent) and Greece (54 percent).
Katarina Pavic, president of the NGO, told SETimes that many young people want to start their own businesses but don't have the credit needed for a loan.
"Young people should be able to open their own jobs. But for that, it takes more favourable credit measures for young people, more measures to encourage entrepreneurship [and] more open jobs and opportunities for young people," Pavic said.
According to the government, the unemployment problem will improve next year after initiatives take hold.
"We will see real effects of this government's moves in the middle of next year," Krunoslav Vidic, labour and health ministry spokesman, told SETimes. "With active measures for employment and new legislative possibilities, we will encourage employers to help create jobs and help the unemployed to get a job."
Vidic said the government increased its budget for creating jobs by 27.5 percent this year, and parliament passed new laws and regulations to address the issue.
Unemployment is also a problem in the region. In Serbia, the unemployment rate crossed 25 percent, while in Montenegro its slightly lower 13.5 percent. In BiH, the unemployment rate reached 45 percent, while in Kosovo it reached a record 60 percent.
Starting in July 2013, Croatian citizens will be able to expand their job search field to some countries of the EU. However, some, such as Germany and Austria, have introduced a seven-year waiting period after a new member joins the EU to get a job.
Marin Lajovic, 31, an electrical engineer from Zagreb, said that he had a dozen unsuccessful job interviews, and now he is seriously thinking about leaving the country.
"I know about the restrictions on employment in the EU, but I'll still try, even if I needed to work on the black market. I'm trying to find a job in Croatia for 3 years, and every time I was rejected, from public and private firms. I think that with the entry into the EU, the conditions will improve – no thanks to the Croatian authorities but thanks to Brussels," Lajovic told SETimes.