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Opposition criticises new bill regarding foreigners

Zagreb

ZAGREB, Sept 3 (Hina) – Part of the parliamentary opposition on Wednesday strongly criticised the aliens bill, under which an annual quota for the employment of foreigners will no longer be determined.

“We are passing a crucial law that will determine the demographic future of Croatia at an extraordinary session, during the coronavirus crisis, amid unfavourable demographic trends,” said Miroslav Skoro, leader of the Homeland Movement, noting that the bill had not received support from the Domestic Policy and National Security Committee.

Zeljko Sacic (Sovereignists) said that such situations were rare in the parliament and that the bill should be withdrawn due to its deficiencies or discussed.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic said the fact that the bill had not received support from the Committee did not mean it could not be discussed.

“It is the plenary session that decides whether the bill will be passed or not,” he said.

Ahead of the discussion on the bill, Miro Bulj (Bridge) warned about worrying demographic trends in Croatia and noted that the number of work permits issued to foreigners rose from 9,000 in 2017 to as many as 108,000 this year.

“… we are heading towards a total demographic collapse, there will be no more Croats in Croatia,” he said.

Marijana Puljak (Pametno) said that almost 10 percent of the working-age population had left Croatia and that according to data by the national statistical office (DZS), 40,000 people emigrated last year and a record 37,000 immigrated, of whom only 9,000 were Croatian citizens.

She noted that there was a lack of quality labour and that one should not make employment procedures more complex for employers. If we make procedures for the issuance of work permits more complicated, it will affect the business sector, Puljak said. 

Under the aliens bill, which is in its first reading, there is no longer an annual quota for the employment of foreigners and employers in search of workforce can contact the Croatian Employment Service, which will issue an opinion on the employment of foreigners.

Ministry of the Interior State Secretary Zarko Kartic said in parliament on Thursday that the new bill on aliens, would not affect labour costs.

“This model will definitely not lower labour costs, quite the contrary, it cares better for Croatian workers because employers have the obligation to look for workers on the Croatian labour market and employ a foreign national only if they cannot find a domestic worker,” Katic said while answering questions from members of parliament.

Most employers say that foreign nationals cost them more and that Croats are more desirable employees, Katic said while answering a question put by Katarina Peovic of the Workers Front, who believes the law will make it possible for employers to keep labour costs low.

Peovic claims that the problem in Croatia is not the lack of the labour force but the fact that labour costs are three times lower than, for example, in Germany or Austria.

Sandra Bencic (We Can!) said that the bill did not protect the labour costs of domestic workers and that it would keep them the same or make them continue to drop.

“Labour costs are regulated by other regulations and by the situation on the labour market but the Ministry of the Interior, when issuing residence and work permits, checks whether the employer pays their workers regularly and whether they comply with regulations, if not, they cannot get a work permit for a foreign national,” Katic replied.

Erik Fabijanic of the Social Democrats welcomed the bill, but he, too, said that it would affect the labour market and therefore required social dialogue.

Katic: Bill on aliens carefully prepared

Katic said that the bill had been carefully prepared, that the decision to abolish quotas had been made after careful consideration and consultations with the social partners and that it was a good framework to attract the labour force to Croatia.

Under the aliens bill, which is in its first reading, there is no longer an annual quota for the employment of foreigners and employers in search of workforce can contact the Croatian Employment Service, which will issue an opinion on the employment of foreigners. Before employing a foreign national, the employer will have to try to find workforce on the Croatian market. Only if that is not possible will the employer be given permission to employ a foreign national.

In 2016, 2,428 work permits for foreign nationals were issued, in 2017 9,088 permits were issued, and in 2018 more than 30,000. In 2019, the number of permits for foreign workers rose to 70,637 and in the first eight months of 2020 42,884 permits were issued.

Traditionally, the largest number of foreign workers in Croatia come from neighbouring countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania, and a growing number of workers come from outside Europe, such as India, Nepal and the Philippines.

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