Croatia's Demographic 'Crisis' Isn't That Bad

By 4 June 2018

June 4, 2018 — It's actually much worse. Few Croats bother announcing their departure.

Stories of Croatia's demographic decline come at a steady pace: packed buses leaving Slavonia; streets of empty homes and nearly-abandoned towns; disenchanted stragglers claiming they're fed up and packing. All capped with happy testimonials of gainfully-employed Croatians now living overseas, claiming they'll never return

Croatia's demographic crisis, filtered through an aggregate of media reports and statistical blips, may seem dire.

Typically some clever turn of phrase comes in this paragraph, where the reader gets rewarded with an unexpected "but" claiming the overall picture isn't so bleak. But... no. It's actually worse than official statistics indicate and may career into oblivion, according to a survey of Croatian high school students.

Disparate figures taken in together show Croatia's population has fallen below the 4 million mark for the first time in its history, according to Jutarnji List. Unofficially. 

Blame the lackluster headcount on a statistical goof.

Croatia's last census showed a population of 4,28 million, a 2011 figure which predates European Union membership. The nation's borders opened wide since joining the bloc, letting an underemployed workforce scramble for jobs elsewhere.

The Croatian Bureau of Statistics tries to regularly update the population figure by factoring in births and deaths, then subtracting the official count of emmigrating Croats, a number provided by the Interior Ministry. The last tally showed the population dropping by 155.000 to 4,12 million.

The figures, by the Bureau of Statistic's own admission, are innacurate. Why?

According to Jutarnji, Croatia's Interior Ministry reported 20.432 Croats left for Germany, while Germans reported a 57.155 increase in Croat immigrants. Ditto Austria, which reported the arrival of 15.505 Croats, while Croatia's Interior Ministry said only 8.909 Croats moved to there.

The disparity grows greater when looked at over a period. From 2011 to 2016, the Interior Ministry's figures claim 45.455 residents left for Germany between 2011 and 2016. German statistics show over 200.000 Croats moved there during the same period.

It appears very few Croats bother telling the government they're leaving.

Tallies of foreign workers provided by European governments offer a more accurate — and depressing — picture. Using statistics provided by Germany and Austria alone to tally the number of Croats living and working abroad drops Croatia's population below 4 million. (This despite a number of ethnic Croats coming from Bosnia and Serbia, and some returning back home). The population would likely drop even further if it included statistics from other EU nations.

The demographic decline may carry on for another generation, as more than 50 percent of Croatia's high school students suggested they "see their future outside of Croatia", according to a study conducted by the Agency for Higher Education.

The Agency overall paints a bleak picture for Croatia's future, attempting to measure students' engagement, aspirations and overall attitude about their future in Croatia. The survey of 13.301 students showed only 19 percent of students want to continue living and working in their hometown, while 27 percent want to stay in Croatia. Nearly 40 percent of students see themselves elsewhere within the EU, while 14 percent in a non-EU country.

The days where headlines show Croatia's overseas population topping its largest cities have only begun...