Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Croatia's Exodus: What Some Cities in Croatia are Offering Young Families to Stay

January 25, 2022 - When the results of the 2021 Census were revealed on 14 January 2022, reactions were swift and varied. For the first time in over 70 years, Croatia’s population dipped below 4 million to hover around 3.88 million inhabitants (DZS). Since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia has been an exodus of almost 19% of its population, or 895,736 residents.

A closer look at the data reflects the greatest outflow of inhabitants are between the ages of 20-59, drawn to other European countries with richer labor markets and higher wages. This decline is exacerbated by lower birth rates and an aging population. Croatian women now have fewer children, with a birth rate of 1.44 children per woman, well below the 2.1 needed to grow the country’s population. Simultaneously, Croatia has also experienced a 13.6% increase in inhabitants aged 60 and up over the last decade.

To counter these effects, cities across Croatia have implemented a range of social and economic measures to entice citizens, particularly the younger generation, to stay and thrive. We take a look at a handful of cities across Croatia and the benefits they offer.


Over a quarter of Croatians live and work in Zagreb. Since 2009, the City of Zagreb has introduced a series of measures to make the city more attractive for its inhabitants. According to their model (“zagrebački model pronatalitetne politike”), parents receive financial support for newborns amounting to 3,500 kuna for every child. From the third child onwards, an additional monthly bonus is paid until the child turns 6 years old, amounting to a total of 54,000 kuna.

After-school care is subsidized and scholarships are awarded for gifted students and those of lower socio-economic backgrounds. All students up to a secondary school level are also provided free transportation and textbooks. The city is also looking to further extend these measures to include tax breaks for teachers and scholarships holders. Together, they cost the city approximately 1.072 billion kuna annually.


According to recent headlines, the City of Rijeka is increasing efforts to boost its population. Karla Mušković, the head of the city Department of Health and Social Welfare, said the City is doubling financial support to new parents by awarding them 3,000 kuna for the first child, 4,000 kuna for the second and, for the third child onwards, 6,000 kuna.

An additional 2,000 kuna in vouchers will be awarded to low-income families, single parents, as well as parents suffering from disabilities from the Homeland War. Students and children of veterans missing, detained or perished will also receive a one-off payment of 1,000 kunas in financial aid. The city has also set aside 12 million kunas in this year’s budget to subsidize rising electricity costs for the vulnerable. The total cost for these extended measures is 22 million kuna.

While generous, how do these measures stack up with smaller cities across Croatia?


Surprisingly, Vis offers one of the most generous policies in Croatia. As of 2016, Vis provides a bonus of 10,000 kuna for the first 2 children. From the third child onwards, parents are given a hefty 146,000 kuna. This is broken down to an upfront sum of 20,000 kuna, with a monthly annuity of 1,200 kuna until the child reaches 10 years old.

Novi Vinodolski

First-time parents are given a sum of 10,000 kuna per child. Additionally, the city also plans for additional subsidies to young families for repayment of housing loans, given the inflation of housing prices due to tourism.


For Crikvenica, parents with 3 or more children receive 30,000 kuna per child. Mayor Damir Rukavina’s government also enacted a series of measures to combat rising housing costs. In 2007 and 2019, building restrictions were passed to limit construction zones and building plot sizes within the city.


The City of Vukovar rewards 1,000 kuna for the first child, 2,000 kuna for the second child, and 5,000 kuna for the third and each subsequent child. On top of this, Vukovar also co-finances housing costs for families with three or more children, subsidizing bills for water, electricity, heating and waste collection.


In 2019, the City of Imotski increased the financial aid for newborns ten-fold. As of 2019, parents will now receive 10,000 kuna for the first child, 20,000 kuna for the second, and 50,000 kuna for the third and subsequent child. These measures make up almost 1.25 million kuna in the annual budget.

While government measures are certainly helpful to alleviate this situation, private businesses can also play a significant role. For example, DM has rolled out significant incentives to ensure their employees thrive in the workplace. In 2019, they increased the bonus given to new parents from 3,000 kuna per child, to 10,000 kuna, while new parents are encouraged to make use of their flexible shift system to ensure proper work-life balance.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Croatian Emigration Rate Second Highest in European Union

February the 12th, 2021 - The fact that certain parts of Croatia, particularly Eastern Croatia, have been gradually emptying for years as the economic situation grows worse and job opportunities become more scarce, isn't something new. That trend only got worse as Croatia entered the EU in July 2013, and the Croatian emigration rate is now the second worst in the entire EU.

As Novac/Kristina Turcin writes, in the period from 2015 to 2019, the population of Croatia, according to official Eurostat data, decreased by 4.26 inhabitants per 1,000 citizens only due to the concerning Croatian emigration rate, which is the second largest decline in population through migration in the European Union: only Lithuania, which is worse, lost 5.04 inhabitants for every 1000 inhabitants in the same period.

This worrisome data unequivocally indicates that the economic prosperity of one country within the EU has a key impact on the decisions of residents to leave one country or move to another. For this reason, the territory of the European Union is one of the most attractive for immigrants from all over the world, but within the Union itself, despite all efforts, the differences between nations and their people are still vast and people from poorer countries continue to migrate with very little barriers placed in front of them to richer ones.

Economic crisis

Such a trend was particularly present in post-socialist countries in the first years after joining the EU, particularly in the early 2000s. In the last observed five-year period, only five EU countries had a negative migration rate, ie the number of emigrants was higher than the number of immigrants. These are Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Croatia and Lithuania. All other member states had a higher number of immigrants than the number of emigrants, and at the top of the scale are of course the countries with the best economic indicators, such as Luxembourg, whose net migration rate was 17, which means that for every 1,000 citizens it had 17 more immigrants than it did emigrants.

That very same pattern, which was shown by the calculations of Dr. Ivan Cipin and Dr. Petra Medjimurec from the Department of Demography at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, is present within Croatia and in the Croatian emigration rate: the correlation between economic prosperity, measured through GDP per capita, and net migration rates for each county is indisputable, it was, as stated, also particularly strong in the first years after Croatia's initial accession to the EU in the summer of 2013.

''There's no doubt that the economic development of a particular area is one of the most important, if not the most important, factor of emigration,'' explained Dr. Cipin.

According to the analysis they made, in the years of the strongest economic crisis in Croatia, the stronger the Croatian emigration rate grew. As expected, this primarily involved those from poorer counties. For example, back in 2012, the most negative net migration rate was in Pozega-Slavonia County, which, in that year, lost 11 inhabitants per 1,000 inhabitants exclusively due to emigration, either abroad or to other Croatian counties. At the same time, it was one of the three counties with the lowest GDP per capita - the GDP of that county was, for comparison, more than three times lower than the GDP of the City of Zagreb. That year, however, the six (richest) counties had a positive net migration rate, ie the number of immigrants was higher than the number of emigrants.

However, the explosion of emigration started in 2013 - the year in which Croatia finally joined the European Union, and peaked in 2017 when, for example, the net migration rate for Vukovar-Srijem County, whose GDP per capita was also among the lowest, was 35, and only two counties, Istria and the City of Zagreb, had a positive rate. Virovitica-Podravina and Pozega-Slavonia counties, which a year earlier had the lowest GDP per capita, had net migration rates of -20 and -25, respectively.

Regional inequalities

''When the borders opened up to Croatia following July 2013's accession to the EU, the differences in economic development reached special levels in terms of migration statistics. Slavonia and the area around Sisak faced the worst situation. These parts of the country, ie the surplus of emigration, have been a big issue for Croatia for some time now, which, due to the departure of the younger and more active part of the population, leads to a further reduction of GDP per capita and inequalities therefore only increase. I'm afraid that without targeted EU intervention, it will no longer be possible to reverse the trend: we have counties where, partly due to emigration, the average age of the general population is already approaching 50, and they still have negative net migration, which is an unpromising indicator,'' explained Dr. Cipin.

Combating poverty and regional disparities is one of the main goals of the European Union, but the set goal of reducing the number of people at risk of poverty by 20 million by 2020 has unfortunately not been achieved. On the contrary, inequalities between and within member states have only further increased, and the concerning Croatian emigration rate is just one aspect which speaks volumes about it.

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Thursday, 2 January 2020

Croatian Demographic Crisis Forcing Retired Doctors to Care for Patients

The Croatian demographic crisis continues to bite, and it's far from plumbers, electricians, mechanics and drivers that Croatia is rapidly running out of, but nurses, dentists and doctors too.

As Novac writes on the 2nd of January, 2020, for more than forty years, Dr. Željka Perić has been working in the Slavonian village of Zdenci, in the east of Virovitica-Podravina County. She acquired the conditions for early retirement back in 2010, but due to a lack of doctors owing to the Croatian demographic crisis, she has continued to work in the same office.

She is of course sorry to leave her patients without primary medical care in their village because that would mean that they have to travel ten kilometres for their care to Orahovica, and for some of them that simply isn't viable.

''Next year in September, I will turn 65 and be able to retire fully, but I'm afraid that nothing will come from that as there are no young family doctors and the clinic will be closed. If something does get organised, it will be the ''flying'' doctors who are changed every day. That type of thing is done just to put out fires and has nothing to do with medicine because the sense of family doctors is continuity,'' explained Perić, who was named the best doctor in Croatia in 2014 by the Association of Croatian Patients.

She's not the only one feeling the strain of the Croatian demographic crisis and who doesn't want to be left stranded, either. Another dozen doctors in Virovitica-Podravina County are on an ''extension'' as they say in health circles when referring to those who remain in work after 65 years of age. The average age of family doctors in Croatia is 55, and in Virovitica-Podravina County, they are older. According to the records of the Croatian Medical Chamber, the loss of doctors that will occur during this year and next year is just over 25 percent due to the age of retirement in that particular continental Croatian county.

At the moment, eight primary care clinics are stuck without a doctor, two are on specialisation and as many as fifteen of them are retiring. The Virovitica-Podravina County Health Centre has not concluded a specialist training contract with any doctor for many years, proving that the Croatian demographic crisis is not only damaging to the country's overall economy, but to the health of its waining population, too.

"In October, my office had about twenty sixth year students from the Faculty of Medicine in Osijek and none expressed a desire to stay in primary health care. They see their future in hospital specialties, meaning that the whole of Croatia will soon have major problems on the front line when it comes to health,'' Perić pointed out disappointingly.

''We had an example of a shortage of doctors in family medicine recently after the closure of Zdravko Sertić's office in Virovitica. Hundreds of his patients are now trying to enroll in the remaining teams that are already double-packed. None of the newly graduated doctors of medicine at the Health Centre requested work under supervision, which was introduced as a new form of work instead of an internship. More young doctors still working in that institution without specialisation, and even a few with completed specialisations, are preparing documentation for moving to other institutions,'' notes Berislav Bulat, president of the County Commission of the Croatian Chamber of Physicians and President of the Croatian Family Medicine Coordination Branch (KoHOM) for Virovitica-Podravina County.

The Croatian demographic crisis has caused a problem with doctors of other specialisations, too. Currently, a tender for the specialist training of doctors of medicine at Virovitica General Hospital is underway. Such tenders are repeated year after year with a demand of over thirty doctors. The actual expected turnout can be counted using the fingertips of one hand, Deutsche Welle writes.

''Although in recent years we have more and more medical doctors graduating from this area of ​​origin (in 2017 there were five, in 2018 there were eight, in 2019 there were thirteen), only a few want to stay in institutions here. They go off to other hospitals, usually to Bjelovar or to Zagreb. Similar to family medicine, there remain those who should retire because of the needs of the system, and because of poor pensions,'' said Bulat.

Virovitica-Podravina County is not far from an isolated case. The situation is similar in other parts of Croatia, but in that county, when referring to statistics, the situation is the most unfavourable.

For example, in Virovitica-Podravina County there is one doctor per 425 inhabitants, in Požega-Slavonia, one doctor for 318 patients, and in Osijek-Baranja, one doctor for 303 patients. Virovitica-Podravina County has the oldest doctors, 22 percent of them are over 60 years old, while 17 percent of doctors in Požega-Slavonia County are over 60, and in 11 percent of doctors in Osijek-Baranja are over 60.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more on the Croatian demographic crisis.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

''Don't Leave Croatia, I Thought it Would be Easier in Time, I was Wrong''

The economic situation in Croatia is far from promising, and with more and more Croats flocking to Western European countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany, it seems that the country's massive staff shortages and concerning demographic crisis aren't about to be over any time soon. 

However, just how much milk and honey really flows through the rivers of Western Europe, or is it all just a myth? Having been raised in the UK and having lived in Croatia for years now, I can quite confidently state that neither milk nor honey can be found at least in the British isles, and while the economic conditions are indeed more stable and safe, the idea that huge wage packets and a perfect life are waiting for you when you step off the plane in London is farfetched, to say the very least.

Wages typically (not always, of course) match the cost of living, and when you need to pay over £100 for council tax per month and have your heating turned on for several months per year to cope with the cold temperatures and miserable weather, suddenly that fatter pay packet doesn't seem as appealing as it did at first.

As Croats from all corners of the country continue to go and try their hand abroad, thanks to Croatia's accession to the EU and the freedom of labour, many are faced with shocks which only longer than three months in their newly adopted Western European countries can show up.

As Novac writes on the 27th of April, 2019, Marko Mihaljević, a 27-year old Croat with a Masters degree, went from Babina Greda in Vukovar-Srijem County (Eastern Croatia) to the bustling German city of Frankfurt seven months ago, and managed to get a job in construction. He is one of the very many young Croats who haven't been able to find a job in Croatia, so they placed their hopes and dreams for a better future in the hands of one of the Croats' favourite countries to go and seek work - Germany.

However, just like in the United Kingdom, there are no rivers flowing with milk and honey in Germany either, and Marko soon found that out for himself.

"I thought it would get easier in time, but everything's harder," Mihaljević explains in a short Facebook video he posted in which he discusses the matter.

He shared his experiences of leaving Croatia and working in Germany via the aforementioned Facebook video, and told his fellow young Croats still in Croatia not to go abroad if they weren't absolutely sure of everything, because he himself thought things would be very different.

''I'm spending my days doing this job. I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus, nor am I trying to talk badly about any job, because I've never underestimated anyone in my life, but I'm doing a job for which I don't even need a primary school education. Having a Master's degree sounds nice, but I've got to break my back here from morning til night for my bare existence because that's [gaining respectable employment with a Master's degree] not allowed in Croatia. Why is it not allowed? Because I'm not in any political party,'' Marko stated bluntly.

He says he's angry that as a man with a Master's degree, he has to work in the construction industry, but he currently has no choice,'' writes Fenix ​​Magazine.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle  page for much more on the Croatian demographic crisis and the mass exodus of Croats to Western Europe.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Croat in Germany Reveals Whether or Not Life Really is Cheaper There

A Croatian YouTuber in Germany reveals all about double standards when it comes to your weekly shop...

All too often the Croatian media is plagued by depressing stories of Croats fleeing the country in search of better lives elsewhere. Since Croatia's accession to the European Union, this trend has only grown worse and the level at which emigration from Croatia has been is hardly sustainable for the country these people are leaving behind. 

Many people leave realising that hard work and a difficult adjustment period awaits them, however many assume Western European nations like the UK, Ireland and Germany boast rivers of milk and honey and that everyone earns a huge amount for doing very little, and well, the basic fact that higher wages are typically designed to manage the high cost of living seems to bypass many in their lust for a better economic situation. Some stay, and some return with a stark realisation that life abroad isn't quite as easy as they expected.

With all that said, just how much difference is there in the general price of things between Croatia and Germany? One Croatian YouTuber who moved to Germany back in 2014, just one year after Croatia's accession to the EU, made a video for all those would-be Croatian emigrants.

As Novac writes on the 18th of April, 2019, Ivan Lovric, the oner of the YouTube channel Lovra who moved to Germany with his family in 2014, compared some basic food prices in Germany to those in Croatia in his new video.

''I thought it would be a really good idea to buy some stuff in a shop in Germany, and get my wife to buy the same things over in Croatia. To make a comparison and check whether or not it's really, as it's often said, that it's cheaper in Germany,'' explains Lovra in his video's introduction, which is in Croatian.

They arranged for Ivan's wife to visit the exact same store, a German merchant which has their own stores in Croatia, and buy the same basic foods like bread, milk, eggs, and flour. Although Ivan didn't want to name the store in his video for various reasons, he says that it will not be difficult for people to realise which store it is when they see the branded products.

The first product that the pair checked was bread, more precisely ciabatta. Ivan bought it in Germany and paid the equivalent of 5.13 kuna, and his wife spent 5.99 kuna for the exact same thing here in Croatia. The difference is a mere 86 lipa, less than 1 kuna, so Lovra concluded that that's not so terrible. Once again, the next difference is very small, but again, it leans in favour of Germany when compared to the Croatian price of milk. One litre of milk in Croatia stands at 4.99 kuna, and in Germany, at a lower price of what would be 4.61 kuna. A packet of toast and and a kilograms of fries (chips) in Germany, is cheaper by about 1.50 kuna when compared to Croatia, while sour cream is cheaper in Croatia, sold at 2.99 kuna, whereas in Germany it costs 3.64 kuna.

Still, the biggest surprise, and not in a positive way, are eggs. A box of ten eggs for which Lovro gave 8.85 kuna, his wife paid a significantly higher 13.49 kuna here in Croatia, almost five kuna more. The difference is almost 3 kuna more when comparing the prices of Nutella, a favourite of many. Over in Germany, a 400g pack costs 20.75 kuna, and in Croatia it costs 23.49 kuna.

In the end, Lovra paid a total of 131.54 kuna for his basket, and the exact same basket from the exact same German store, but in Croatia, was almost 20 kuna more, or 150.03 kuna.

''Yes, I unfortunately have to say that in Germany it's cheaper than it is in Croatia. There's not a big difference, but I believe that when everything is calculated at an annual level, the difference is a lot bigger,'' concluded Lovra.

He also added the fact that the average wage in Croatia is considerably lower than in Germany, and thus Croats have a lower standard of living than the Germans.

If you're able to understand Croatian, watch Ivan's video here:

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Above Board or Below Board, Croatia's Employment Issues Continue

Croatia's employment issues are somewhat perplexing to many, and although there has apparently been a massive drop in unemployment, there's only been a very slight jump in those registering as newly employed. The maths doesn't always really add up, but unfortunately the demographic picture of the country explains it all.

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 10th of April, 2019, at this time of year, official data on employment levels tends to heavily reflect the huge levels of seasonality Croatia's labour market is affected by with every passing year, of course, this is primarily owing to the increased employment levels of seasonal workers before the start of the main tourist season in summer. The latest figures from HZMO (Croatian Pension Insurance Fund) from March show some growth in the number of insured persons, both on a monthly and an annual basis, with positive annual rates having continued to some degree or another since March 2015, while monthly growth began in only in February, according to analysts from Raiffeisen Bank (RBA).

Last month, the number of insured persons increased by 14,000, to a total of 1.52 million people, and it is realistic to expect that the number of insured persons will increase even more owing to the opening up of seasonal positions in preparation for the tourist season, an economic trend which could easily continue until September. When compared to March last year, the number of insured persons more than 32,000 or 2.2 percent higher.

Along with the pretty positive indicators from HZMO's labour market information, the Croatian Bureau of Statistic's labour force surveys are more in line with the process of the huge problem of the mass emigration of Croatia's fit, healthy, working-age population and the demographic of an aging general population. The latest survey, in which the last quarter of 2018 was included, indicates an annual drop in Croatia's working-age population from 3.54 to 3.52 million.

Those who are economically active in Croatia, whether they're already working or actively looking for a job, numbered just 1.8 million at the end of 2018, which is 42,000 people or 2.3 percent less than the year before. Despite the positive economic data, the activity rate dropped from 52 to 51 percent. Activity and employment rates have, at least for some time now, been indicative of much more than just the general rate of unemployment. This applies in particular to activities that are needed in more economically developed EU countries, and jobs that tend to be given to (highly) skilled staff.

Economists have been warning for a long time that recent developments in reduce the potential for growth in Croatia in the long term. The number of unemployed people in Croatia in the last quarter of the year, according to the results of the survey conducted in the last quarter of 2018, dropped when compared to the previous year by 46,000 people, or 23 percent, to 154,000 people. At the same time, however, the number of employees increased only very slightly, by 0.3 percent, meaning just 5,000 people more, to 1.64 million. In the fourth quarter, the activity rate and the employment rate recorded lower values ​​(51 percent and 46.6 percent), according to RBA.

In the last quarter of 2018, the numbers of economically inactive people older than fifteen increased by just one percent. Finally, the year ended with the fall of Croatia's unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, which is also the first drop below 10 percent since 2009, the year which followed the 2008 recession, but unfortunately this is partly a consequence of Croatia's negative demographic trend.

Although Croatia's growth in employment is of course very encouraging, analysts warn that it should be noted that the number of employees has been growing at a mild rate for the last five years, and that the average number of employees is still 6.5 percent lower than in before the crisis back in 2008. Overall, they conclude, Croatia's labour market remains very fragile and is burdened with some extremely serious structural problems, especially in terms of the total mismatch of supply and demand, long-term unemployment, and the falling number of working-age people for the ninth year in a row.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics and business pages for much more.


Click here for the original article by Jadranka Dozan for Poslovni Dnevnik