ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia's tourism industry, a key engine of the economy, urged the government on Friday to allow more foreign workers into the sector to help staff bars and restaurants in the high season.
Croatia, the youngest European Union member, is highly dependent on mostly summer tourism receipts, with the industry contributing almost 20 percent to gross domestic product.
"Ahead of the main tourist season, the situation with workforce is critical and opening of some tourist capacities, including bars and restaurants, is in jeopardy," Croatia's association of tourist firms (HUT) and the national association of employers (HUP) said in a joint appeal to officials.
In December, Croatia raised the number of licences for foreign workers for 2019 to 65,100 from 38,769 last year.
The quota for workers in tourism was raised to 15,611 from 8,930.
The sectors that suffer most from a shortage of qualified workers are tourism, construction, retail, manufacturing and transport.
"It is our goal primarily to employ domestic workforce but the local people are not available or interested to take jobs in tourism," the HUT said.
The average monthly salary in Croatia was 6,464 kuna ($983.60) in March. The unemployment rate in April was 8.6 percent.
Foreign workers who come to Croatia are mostly from non-EU Balkan states, but some also arrive from more distant nations such as Ukraine or even Asian countries.
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Mark Potter)