Teo Matković
Recent developments in the education system and school-to-work transitions in Croatia

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 138
ISSN: 1437-8574

This paper portrays the transitional developments in the education system, youth labour market and related institutional provisions in Croatia in line with recently published comparative work on transitions from school to work in Europe. The overview is primarily based upon the Croatian Labour force Survey series data ranging from 1996 to 2008.
The Croatian education system, based upon its central-European legacy, underwent, through substantive expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, a de-tracking experiment in the 1970s and 1980s, and a substantial but unbalanced expansion of its tertiary education since the mid-1990s. The system retrenched into a rather stratified system with medium standardization and weak employer linkages at the secondary level. In such a setting, coupled with strong employment-protection legislation, recent school-leaver unemployment in Croatia is high relative to general unemployment and tends to decline relatively slowly with labour market experience. Economic growth in the 2000s combined with partial deregulation of the labour market were followed by improved dynamics of entry, but an increase in the precariousness of the initial employment opportunity. Consequently, around 2008, it still took about five years on average for the school-leaver unemployment risk to approach that of the national average.
In the Croatian case, its stratified education system leads to stratified labour market outcomes, both with respect to integration into the labour market and job quality. Achieved education level plays a crucial role in the school-to-work transition process. Unlike in the occupational labour market (OLM) countries, secondary vocational education in Croatia does not enable smooth transitions or better job retention, making the country pattern more akin to that of Mediterranean countries. Early school leavers and youth with only a general secondary education face the worst outcomes, while tertiary education persistently offers the substantive advantage in terms of labour market integration, job quality, and security. Recent expansion in the number of tertiary graduates coincided with a decline in their job-search advantage, and their initial occupational status tends to be slightly lower, with substantive differences persisting. Once a job has been found, there is a strong tendency among graduates from each track of education to cluster in particular sectoral and occupational niches, while differences between education tracks and levels in status of achieved jobs are as high in Croatia as they are in OLM countries.