Desperately seeking employment in Croatia

By bne IntelliNews November 13, 2009

Guy Norton in Zagreb -

With local newspapers crammed full of stories of graft and nepotism in recent months, it's perhaps no surprise your average Croatian thinks that it's not what you know, but who you know when it comes to getting ahead in a jobs market where the unemployment rate is expected to hit 17% by the end of the year. And a recent survey by Austrian online research agency MindTake New Media Consulting clearly demonstrates that when it comes to securing a job, connections not qualifications are seen as the key to success.

According to the survey compiled from answers from 700 respondents in October, a massive 95% stated that family and political connections were important in winning employment, with 50% stating that such contacts counted for more than qualifications. Furthermore, the survey revealed that Croatian employers are almost universally considered to be sexist and ageist, while some respondents complained that they were biased against single mothers, war veterans and ethnic minorities.

As a result, more than half of the respondents said that would be willing to emigrate to secure a good position. Svjetlana Veseli, research director of MindTake, says the survey confirms an alarming level of suspicion and distrust in people's attitudes towards employers. "Younger people feel no one gives them a chance, while older people feel treated like dinosaurs. Women blame male chauvinism, men think women get jobs because of their looks, mothers complain about bias, and sexual and national minorities complain about discrimination," she says. "Many people say they feel bitter and angry from having repeatedly experienced blatant nepotism and corruption, and this has greatly eroded their enthusiasm and motivation to work. For a young state with a lot of theoretical but untapped potential, this is really bad news."

Klaus Oberecker, chief executive officer of MindTake, says that unless Croatian employers address the concerns raised by the survey, the country faces the prospect of losing some of its most talented workers. "Unless this culture of nepotism is tackled head-on and the trend is reversed, the brain drain seems inevitable," he says. "The most talented and hard-working Croats will move abroad and build great careers in Vienna, London and New York, while businesses and the state sector in Croatia will suffer and wither, weighed down by ignorance, inefficiency and complacency."

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