EU Rules Benefit Croatian Jobseekers

Ruzica Matic Zagreb

Since Croatia aligned its employment laws with EU regulations, the percentage of unemployed over 50s has dropped, albeit slightly.

The number of unemployed people aged 50 plus was at its peak in Croatia in 2008, at the beginning of the global economic downturn. Back then, 29.4 per cent of unemployed Croats were aged 50 and over. Since then, the number has dropped a few percentage points.

This appears to be in line with moves to implement and align with EU employment and discrimination directives, as Croatia prepares to join the union, something that is expected in the near future.

“This is the third year that we have been carrying out identical employment policy as EU members,” says Inga Žic, head of Labour and Labour Market department of the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Enterprise.

Measures aimed at improving the position of workers and jobseekers aged over 50 are an important part of this policy, stresses Žic, and funds for them are increasing.

In 2009, the budget for state funded programmes to increase the employment of senior workers was €1.1 million; by 2011 it has grown to €7.3 million.

“This year we got money from EU funds, so the amount is much higher,” explains Inga Žic.

If an employer hires worker over fifty, he will receive financial support from the state. However, Žic was unable to say how much support firms employing older workers receive, or even give an average figure.

“The criteria are elaborate and complicated. The amount depends on the salary and education of employees,” she says.

Policy reforms

According to 2010 Croatian National Employment Agency (HZZ) statistics, the state financially supported the employment of 305 persons aged over 50. France and Macedonia also have measures for supporting employers who hire senior workers, but their system isn't that elaborate.

Since 2008, the Macedonian government support employers who hire workers aged over 55 by paying their salary and benefits for six months but, in order to get this support, the employer must keep the employee on for at least 18 months.

The French state has, since 2009, paid €2,000 euros to companies for each worker they employ who is 50 or older. 

And it appears the process of preparing to join the EU has already helped Croatian workers of all ages – including the young and not so young. Not least with the speed in which employment disputes are heard at the courts.

 “Things started to happen faster since Croatia began to synchronise with the EU directive. We used to wait at least half a year for the first hearing in labour disputes, and now it takes two months”, says Domagoj Rebić, legal counsel at Croatian Independent Unions (NHS).

The longest-running and still unsettled labour dispute at the Municipal Civil Court (Općinski građanski sud) in Zagreb began in 1991. Most workers who seek justice in the courts have to be prepared to wait years for a ruling. 

That should change soon. Croatia’s justice ministry announced in July that a new, dedicated labour court will be established in Zagreb in January 2012. Employment disputes outside the capital will be heard by specialist departments set up within existing courts.

The goal is to make average length of labour disputes six months, which is something workers in Croatia could only dream of during the last 20 years.

Ruzica Matic is a Zagreb-based journalist who is participating in the 2011 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

She will be writing regular updates on her investigation into age discrimination in the workplace in Croatia and Macedonia following the collapse of communism, and in France and the UK.

Fellow Bio

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Ružica Matić

Ružica Matić is a Croatian journalist based in Zagreb. She works for the daily newspaper 24sata, covering many of the major showbiz stories and interviewing Croatian and international celebrities. 

Topic

Topic 2011: Justice

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