(Photo: HRT) (Photo: HRT)

The increase is the largest single hike to the minimum wage in the past decade, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday during a cabinet session. The government wanted to send a message that they cared about people who are living on modest wages, Plenković said.

"This is an increase of 248 kuna, and it is an increase of 9% from 2018 to 2019. It's the biggest single minimum salary hike since 2008," he said.

Pension and Labor System Minister Marko Pavić believes the increase will make a significant difference to low-income earners.

"This jump to 3,000 kuna is substantial. It is going to ensure a more dignified existence for our citizens, 37 thousand of whom earn the minimum monthly salary," Pavić said.

The Prime Minister underscored that the new minimum salary will be higher than in nine other EU member states, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, and Poland, the Prime Minister said.

Union leader Krešimir Sever welcomed the increase, but said the minimum salary has been too low for far too long.

“If we look at the new minimum salary in proportion to the average monthly salary, we see that's it is going to be only 44.4%, then it becomes clear just how far too low the minimum still is,” Sever said.

The Croatian Employers association said today it was not opposed to the measure, but did take issue with the fact that social partners, employers and unions, were not consulted with respect to this decision.

Opposition lawmakers also welcomed the move, but agreed with unions that the minimum should be much higher. They said the government was looking to score political points with this modest change. SDP leader Davor Bernardić said that the government was trying to off-set criticism aimed at their tax reforms.

"Plenković and the HDZ feel guilty about the criticism they have received over the tax reform measures that raised salaries only for the 15 thousand highest earners," Bernardić said. The SDP believes the minimum wage should be no lower than a net of 4,000 kuna per month, he added. Nikola Grmoja of Most accused the HDZ of buying votes.

"Andrej Plenković appears to be concerned about his position, his approval rating. This can be the start of their European election campaign or some other election, perhaps,” Grmoja said.

He added that this minimum increase would do little to stop the exodus of Croatian workers to other EU countries in search of better job opportunities.

Živi zid leader Ivian Vilibor Sinčić pointed out that the minimum salary increase was less than half of the increase the Prime Minister will be getting under his government’s tax reform measures.