As the black clouds of uncertainty hang over the UK with some kind of Brexit around the corner, the restrictions on foreign workers seem to be just as stringent as ever. It is slightly ironic. Croatia is handing out tons of visas to foreigners to replace the workers that have left for the greener fields of other EU members. And yet as the UK is leaving the EU family and faces an uncertain future, especially with filling job positions, the requirements for actually obtaining a work visa are, to say the least, challenging.
One of the toughest tests, and yes it is a test, for foreigners is the so called International English Language Testing System, or IELTS. Think of the hardest English test you remember from school, multiply it by 100 and that’s how tough this test is. Shakespeare himself would struggle to ace it! But the Brits are tough. NO IELTS no entry.
Even though it is so exceptionally hard I admire the fact that they have stuck to the rules and demanded that foreign workers have an above average level of the native tongue. Not only do people have to learn the language they are also forced to understand something, if only on a surface level, of the culture, the history and traditions. All of these are important tools to start a new working life in a foreign land.
But if look at the flip side, Croatia. You want to work in Croatia as a foreigner there is absolutely no test of Croatian, zero! You can start a business, run a business with thousands of employees and you don’t even have to know “dobar dan.” You don’t have to understand any of the culture or history, in fact anything and you can work freely.
Now you could argue that being a member of the EU means you have to obey EU policies. Of which one of the most rigorous is free movement of people and the freedom to work in any other member state. That is true up to a point. Except in the UK and Germany who both require a test of the language to obtain a work visa. It is a classic case of one rule for the big boys and one for all the rest.
In Dubrovnik we have had plenty of cases of foreign managers and directors, many of the major hotels have at one point been steered by a foreign “captain,” and yet very few of them knew more than ten words in the language of the country they were working in. One foreign director meant that the whole force work had to speak English. I guarantee you that if you only spoke Spanish and wanted to work in the London, or Berlin or in fact Paris, as a director the door would by firmly shut in your face. And quite right to. And yet in Croatia we have countless cases of directors from all over the globe forcing their language onto a whole organisation.
In their wisdom the government has decided to increase work permits for foreign nationals this year seven times more than last year. A massive 65,000 will be handed out. How many of these applicants will need to know Croatian? Not one. You could argue that many of these visas will go to workers from the former Yugoslavia and they will already have some language skills. And you would be right. But a huge chunk will go outside of the neighbouring countries. Beggars can’t be choosers. The country faces a crippling labour shortage. It’s true.
Without these foreign workers we would almost stop, or at least be stuck in second gear. So can the government be strict with the application process? Can they even afford to turn people away? I imagine if you put a Croatian language test as part of the application process then you would automatically lose at least half of the interested workers. But at the same time by not having a language test you are also showing a lack of respect towards your own culture. It is a catch 22 situation. As the English would say “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”