Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 27/05/21


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Beneficiaries of international protection have the right to work in the Republic of Croatia, without a residence and work permit or certificate of registration of work.[1] Both asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection have access to the labour market, without distinction.

However, access to rights and their exercise in the practical life of each beneficiary is challenging. The main obstacle is still the language barrier and the language courses, which is a precondition for successful integration and accessing the labour market. In 2020, COVID-19 epidemic has affected the labour market by reducing employment opportunities.

In order to carry out the quality integration of asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection in Croatian society, the Ministry of Science and Education, in cooperation with the Sector for Schengen Coordination and European Union funds of the Ministry of Interior, prepared the project “Integration of refugees and foreigners under subsidiary protection in Croatian society, education and preparation for inclusion in the labour market “. The program aims to provide 280 hours of language courses to refugees and foreigners under subsidiary protection.[2]

According to information provided by representatives of the Ministry of Science and Education during the national EMN meeting held in November 2019, the language course was organised for interested beneficiaries in Zagreb, Slavonski Brod, in Sisak and Karlovac. However AYS reported that due to epidemiological measures, the official language course, which had started in December 2019, was suspended for several months in 2020. [3] Also, the language course, organised by Public Open University Zagreb is not certified. [4]

In addition the Ombudsperson, the Croatian Red Cross, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) reported problems related to Croatian language Course. According to the Ombudsman’s Annual report the Croatian-funded Croatian language course started in December 2019 and took place in two shifts, from 9 am to noon and from 4 pm to 7 pm, which was not adapted to beneficiaries of international protection employed and thus working during these hours.[5] The Croatian Red Cross reported that the official Croatian language course, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Education, is not adapted to individual beneficiaries as is too advanced for some of them, while others go through material they already know and lose motivation.[6]

According to JRS, the Croatian language courses always start from the beginner level, which does not always correspond to the level of knowledge of certain persons.[7] There are beneficiaries granted international protection who have been in Croatia for a long time and have a sound knowledge of the basis of the Croatian language, however more advanced courses are not financially available to them. Basic knowledge of the Croatian language does not allow them to find well-paid jobs which would enable them to afford advanced courses, thus forcing them to remain in a vicious circle of basic knowledge of the language and lower paid jobs. Within the courses organised by the Ministry of Science and Education neither initial nor a final knowledge test is taken. At the end of the course, candidates receive certificates of attendance, but not the document of the acquired knowledge and skills or the completed level of language.

As mentioned in Housing, asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection have the right to accommodation if they do not hold financial resources or possessions of significant value, for no longer than 2 years from the day of the delivery of the decision approving international protection.[8] It is expected that within this period, they would learn the language and find a job to support themselves. However in practice, many of them after 2 years still do not know the Croatian language and accordingly have problems finding appropriate employment. In 2020, expiration of 2 years of subsidised housing combined with unemployment due to COVID -19 crises put some of beneficiaries at risk of homelessness.

According to information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, their employees and volunteers provide support to all beneficiaries of international protection during this integration period.[9]

In relation to employment, they provide support in terms of: finding employment, establishing contacts and organising meetings with (potential) employers; as well as coordinating with relevant institutions and the Croatian Employment Service (CES).

The so-called “Integration House” arranged in the premises of the Croatian Red Cross serves as contact and drop-in centre for beneficiaries of international protection, and is run by Croatian Red Cross staff and volunteers. The Integration House is open every working day and offers activities targeting beneficiaries created and implemented by volunteers and persons granted international protection. Once a month lawyers of the Croatian Law Centre are providing legal information in the Integration House to beneficiaries of international protection, including information on employment and their rights within the system. Since March 2020, the work of Integration House was adopted to epidemiological situation, so assistance was provided mainly by phone and e-mail.[10]

Many other NGOs such as JRS, the Centre for Peace Studies, the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma, Are you Syrious (AYS) also provide assistance during integration. The Integration Centre “SOL”, which is run by JRS and was opened in 2018, provides support and guidance to individuals and families in the Republic of Croatia, who have been granted international protection, in their integration process.[11]

AYS reported that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the labour market. In the course of 2020, AYS provided information to persons under international protection on their right to work as well as assistance in job searching, both online and at one-on-one meetings while respecting all epidemiological measures.[12]  AYS stressed as a positive development that persons granted international protection were included in Active Employment Policy Measures in 2020. However, according to AYS a new set of measures was adopted in December 2020, excluding persons who are granted international protection. As an additional difficulty, AYS pointed out that the Croatian Employment Service often registers persons under international protection as a person without a high school diploma, since they often cannot obtain documentation for nostrification, which makes it much more difficult for them to access the labour market through the employment service.

According to the Croatian Red Cross, the spread of COVID-19 virus had an important impact on the employment and firing of beneficiaries of international protection, mostly in the hospitality industry.[13]

The Croatian Employment Service (CES) is responsible for the implementation of measures in the field of employment of foreigners, with particular emphasis on asylees and foreigners under subsidiary protection. According to the Law on the Labour Market asylee and foreigner under subsidiary protection, as well as their family members may apply to the CES. According to this Law, they are equal with Croatian citizens in terms of rights and obligations.

According to CES, 121 asylees (of which 46 women) and 16 foreigners under subsidiary protection (of which 8 women) and 12 members of families of persons that were granted international protection (of which 11 women) were registered in their records of unemployed persons at the end of 2020. [14] According to the data of the CES, 85 asylees, 6 persons under subsidiary protection and 8 members of families of persons under international protection were included in individual counselling at CES in 2020 and a total of 147 individual counselling for these users were conducted, while 11 asylees, 6 foreigners under subsidiary protection and 1 member of family of a person that was granted international protection were included in active employment policy measures. The majority of persons registered were from Syria (79), Iraq (29), Turkey (10) and Iran (8).

Similarly to previous years, CES highlighted the lack of knowledge of Croatian as well as a low motivation to learn the language and to be engaged in other programmes that can raise the chances of gaining employment, as a major obstacles to the integration of beneficiaries of protection. Furthermore, as an additional challenge to integration, CES highlighted work attitudes and cultural differences, especially amongst women. These challenges require intensive work with beneficiaries and an individualised approach, which was hampered by the pandemic during 2020.

Similarly to the local population, some beneficiaries of international protection were affected by the employment challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Croatian Red Cross, as a partner of UNHCR, was supporting beneficiaries affected by such downsizing with access to the online procedures by the Croatian Employment’s Office for collecting benefits and in looking for new employment opportunities.[15]

The Centre for Peace studies reported that many beneficiaries of international protection were among the first who lost their job during COVID-19, as many of them worked within the direct service sector, which suffered important losses in 2020.[16]  In the first half of the year, the lack of employment opportunities and the expiration of two years of subsided housing resulted in a higher risk of homelessness for some families and a small number of single persons. They also pointed out the problems in the recognition of qualifications and nostrification of diplomas, more precisely due to a lack of adapted procedures for the recognition of qualifications given the specific circumstances in which beneficiaries of international protection often find themselves.

The Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma (RCT) reported that many beneficiaries who lost their jobs during COVID-19 were employed based on short-term contracts.[17]  Due to fragmented work, they were not entitled to unemployment benefits. RCT provided them with support in collecting relevant documentation, filling out forms and sending requests for compensation, as well as in communicating with the Croatian Employment Service.

According to JRS another problem affecting access to the labour market is the availability of kindergartens for children of unemployed beneficiaries of international protection, which leads to the fact that their children are not included in kindergartens on time, thereby impacting their socialisation and integration.[18] On the other hand, this also affects the opportunity for their mothers to look for employment as they thus stay at home to take care for younger children and remain financially dependent on state aid and a partner.

From March 2019 to September 2020, JRS and the Public Open University Zagreb implemented joint project aimed at providing support, education and integration into society and the labour market to persons granted international protection, which at the same time responds to the current market need for a targeted skilled workforce in accordance with deficit occupations. The project involved 131 unemployed persons, including the long-term unemployed, of which 55 were women. The results of the „TrAZILica“ project and the final publication are available online.[19]

At the end of November 2020, the Croatian Employers’ Association and JRS concluded a cooperation agreement in order to provide institutional support to the integration process of third-country nationals into Croatian society and enable their easier employment i.e. to facilitate entry into the labour market.



[1]  Article 68(1) LITP.

[2] European Commission and EMN, Ad hod query in 2019 – Early language support, requested on 29 January 2019, available at:

[3] Information provided by Are you Syrious, 2 February 2021.

[4] Public Open University Zagreb (POUZ), website available at:

[5] Ombudsman, Annual report 2020, available in Croatian at:

[6] Information provided by Croatian Red Cross, 2 March 2021.

[7] Information provided by JRS, 12 January 2021.

[8] Article 67(4) LITP.

[9] Information provided by the Croatian Red Cross, 20 December 2019.

[10] Information provided by Croatian Red Cross 2 March 2021.

[11]  JRS, ‘Refuge Integration Centre „SOL“ opened’ , 2018, available at:

[12] Information provided by Are you Syrious, 2 February 2021.

[13]  Information provided by Croatian Red Cross, 2 March 2021.

[14]  Information provided by the Croatian Employment Service, 11 January 2021.

[15]  UNHCR, Croatia Update: March: 2020, Croatia: COVID-19 and earthquake response, available at:

[16] Information provided by the Centre For Peace studies, 22 January 2021.

[17] Information provided by the Rehabilitation Centre for Stress and Trauma,7 February 2021.

[18]  Information provided by JRS, 12 January 2021.

[19] TrAZILica, 29 March 2019 – 29 September 2020, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation