(Photo: Goran Kovacic/PIXSELL) (Photo: Goran Kovacic/PIXSELL)

The sectors most affected by the lack of workers continue to be in construction and in tourism. According to information presented at the gathering, Croatia has lost some half-a-million workers over the past decade due to emigration and an aging population. Participants at the meeting said if current trends continued Croatia's future development would greatly suffer.

Experts are calling for reforms to the educational system to bring it more in line with the needs of the job market, as well as the introduction of changes to the status of people registered at the Unemployment Bureau.

Luka Burilović, the president of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, said it was important to remove quotas on the use of foreign labour in Croatia, adding that it was the only way for some companies to remain in business.

"Today we have a chronic lack of workers which must be resolved immediately," said Burilović, "because this will prove to be the key factor limiting our development. A new law on foreigners must eliminate visa quotas and allow companies to employ however many workers they need."

Burilović added that only later this year Croatia would finally see its GDP reach pre-crisis levels from 2008. Alarmingly, he said that countries with comparable economic power had achieved significantly more growth over that same time period.

Predrag Štromar, the minister of Construction and Spatial Planning, agreed with the head of the Chamber of Economy regarding the labour shortages, saying that proposed changes to existing legislation would be submitted later this year. And as for this summer's busy construction season, increases to the foreign worker visa program would be adjusted on a weekly basis.

Minister Štromar added that it was far too easy for people registered at the unemployment bureau to keep their unemployed status despite the need for thousands of workers in a range of industries around the country, and not just in construction and tourism.

For his part, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said the quota for foreign workers' visas in the tourism industry would be increased at Wednesday's government cabinet session.

Source: HRT