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The ESF in Croatia

With Croatia's accession to the EU, preparations are under way to deploy the resources of the ESF. The recently adopted Operational Programme 'Human Resources Development' for 2007-2013 includes the ESF activities until end 2013.

The ESF allocation for the 6-months period, from July to December 2013, is EUR 60 million. Moreover, a new Operational Programme 'Efficient Human Resources' 2014-2020 is currently being negotiated between Croatia and the European Commission and is expected to be adopted in the second half of 2014. As one of the Member States most hit by youth unemployment, Croatia is eligible for support from the EU Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). This will provide additional financial support for measures such as  job provision, traineeships and apprenticeships, business start-up support, etc., that target young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs).

A history of support

Since 2007, Croatia has been supported by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to prepare for accession to the EU. An important aspect of this programme has been to support the development of human resources in Croatia and so to pave the way for the programming, management and implementation of the ESF and other EU Structural Funds. The following priorities were addressed in the IPA Operational Programme 'Human Resources Development' for 2007-2013:

Attracting people to work

Croatia faces a number of challenges: a low employment rate, high youth unemployment, qualifications not matching the needs of the job market and regional variations in the opportunities available. In a bid to try and turn the situation around, measures aimed at setting up a work placement scheme to help the young unemployed gain a year’s work experience and practical skills.

Regional inequalities

Long-standing regional inequalities remain a matter of concern and been fully reflected in the design of IPA and ESF funded activities. Gaps in the social security net, the increasing mobility of qualified workers as well as an inability to attract investment are some of the underlying causes. The return of refugees adds to the difficulties caused by an ageing population. Government and donor investment have supported small, local businesses, agriculture and tourism but many people are still without access to transport and other services.

Better education for more people

There is a need to anticipate what skills will be needed by the labour market to make sure young job-seekers have the qualifications they need to find good quality work. Croatia has taken a number of steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of its education system, including ways to establish comprehensive national standards and to match education and training better to labour market needs.

Promoting the social inclusion of disadvantaged groups

The disabled, national minorities (particularly Roma and Serbs), women, the less educated, the long-term and young unemployed and people from the less developed regions are groups who are facing social exclusion. High unemployment and low labour-market participation increased the share of persons at risk of poverty and social exclusion to 32.3% in 2012, significantly above the EU average.

Strengthening the role of civil society organisations and promoting social dialogue

Civil society organisations are developed to various degrees across the regions. This is mainly due to unbalanced regional development and insufficient capacities of NGOs. Social partners often lack experience and technical capacities. EU funds supported activities have assisted in strengthening the role of civil society organisations and their inclusion in policy-making.