Croatia’s Labor Market Transformed by Foreign Worker Influx

Croatia’s Labor Market Transformed by Foreign Worker Influx

Croatia’s labor market is experiencing a significant transformation in 2024.

Data from the Croatian Pension Insurance shows that 72,000 foreign workers came to the country in the first four months of the year. This has led to the highest number of employment figures in the country’s history.

Surge in foreign workers

The Interior Ministry reported that by the end of April 2024, almost 73,000 work permits were approved for foreign nationals from countries outside the European Economic Area.

This is 33% more compared to the same period in 2023. In April alone, almost 21,000 new permits were issued or extended.

Bosnia and Herzegovina became the main source of foreign workers in Croatia again, with over 14,000 permits given in the first four months. 

Serbia, India, and the Philippines also became significant sources of workers for Croatian employers.

Construction and tourism fuel demand

The construction sector has been the primary driver of hiring foreign workers, with over 25,000 permits issued to fill local job gaps.

As the tourist season picks up, the hospitality industry has also increased its hiring efforts, approving about 23,000 foreign workers through new permits, extensions, or seasonal jobs.

Regional distribution

Coastal counties continue to exhibit a high demand for workers from third countries.

The City of Zagreb and Zagreb County together approved permits for 15,000 foreign workers. Istria, which is five times smaller, approved 11,500 permits.

Other tourist spots like Split-Dalmatia, Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Dubrovnik-Neretva, and Zadar counties also hired a significant number of foreign workers.

In continental Croatia, Varaždin County issued 4,000 permits for foreign workers.

On the other hand, the less developed counties, Požega-Slavonia and Virovitica-Podravina, issued the fewest work permits, with fewer than 400 each.

Implications for EU visitors

As Croatia’s job market changes, visitors to the European Union (EU) should know about new travel rules. For one, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will start in mid-2025.

The ETIAS will require travelers from countries that do not need Schengen visas to complete a pre-travel screening process. This system aims to improve security in the Schengen Area, including Croatia.

While the increase in foreign workers will not directly affect short-term visitors, it is important for travelers to understand the ETIAS requirements for smooth entry into Croatia and other Schengen countries.

Croatia’s immigration policy in focus

Croatia’s changing job market affects its immigration policies.

As the country continues to need foreign workers for key sectors, policymakers must balance economic growth with proper regulations.

Croatia may need to adjust its immigration policies to meet the growing demand for foreign workers, especially in construction and tourism.

This could include making it easier for long-term immigrants, like families, investors, digital nomads, and students, while also protecting both Croatian citizens and foreign workers.

Croatia’s workforce transformation

The large increase in foreign worker permits in Croatia shows how its job market is changing. 

With the construction and tourism sectors needing more workers, Croatia will keep depending on foreign labor, changing the makeup of its workforce in the coming years.