Sunday, 4 July 2021

Many Newer Croatian Emigrants Seeking German Citizenship

July the 4th, 2021 - The vast majority of newer Croatian emigrants have a poor perception of their homeland, with a fourth of them planning to adopt German nationality and apparently leave any trace of Croatia behind them.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, only around eight percent of parents from the newer generation of Croatian emigrants have enrolled their children in some form of Croatian curriculum in Germany, and more than 27 percent want to take out German citizenship, Vecernji list reports.

In addition, newer Croatian emigrants also visit Croatian Catholic missions/parishes less and have been removed from the register of those of the Catholic faith over in Germany.

This was shown by the research of political scientist and historian Tade Juric from the Croatian Catholic University entitled ''The perception of emigrants about Croatia" conducted in the diaspora in Germany on a sample of 1,200 respondents in 2018 and 534 respondents in 2021.

While many older Croatian emigrants, Juric points out, have lived for Croatia for most of their lives and invested all their capital, knowledge and emotions into the country, new research shows that the recent emigration from the so-called ''EU wave'' of emigration doesn't really have much of this idealisation of the homeland, on the contrary, a negative image among them prevails.

By the end of December 2020, Croatia had only 4.036 million inhabitants according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), and the emigration of citizens was't stopped during last year's pandemic-dominated travel chaos, in which 34,046 citizens still emigrated from Croatia, with 33,414 people immigrating to Croatia. Last year, 26,355 citizens emigrated to Germany alone.

Juric's research shows that Croatian emigrants believe that homeland and those who have left Croatia aren't effectively and successfully connected, that Croats in the homeland have a negative attitude towards Croatian emigrants and nurture numerous prejudices towards emigrants, but also that Croatia doesn't do enough to help emigrants and Croats outside Croatia.

''More than half of the newer Croatian emigrants have an extremely negative perception of the Croatian Government (HDZ) and events in the homeland, and only 5.6 percent have maintained a positive perception of Croatia at all,'' explained Juric.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

Croatian Demographic Crisis Continues with 20,000 People Lost Annually

May the 28th, 2021 - The coronavirus crisis might be the ''crisis of the moment'' as morbid as that sounds, but the Croatian demographic crisis is never far from the surface. The issues with people not only leaving but dying in Croatia are dire, and with losses of 20,000 people per year, plus emigration, the country is in a horrendous position demographically.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, the number one topic which needs to be discussed is demography because Croatia at the very end of the world in terms of demographic trends, warned Marin Strmota from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. By combining emigration and population loss, Croatia is losing its working-age population, which has devastating consequences. With the fall in birth rates, Strmota warns, we're losing 20,000 people a year, and if emigration is added to that account, the Croatian demographic picture is the worst on the planet.

"The most affected countries are Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia," Strmota said. In the last wave of emigration to Ireland and Germany in the last 7-8 years, about 400,000 people with Croatian citizenship emigrated.

"The problem is the age structure, it's an economic problem. The able-bodied people emigrate, which means that the share of those who pay into the pension and social security system is continually decreasing. Unfortunately, we can't escape from that, even the most optimistic forecasts don't see an increase in the workforce happening,'' added Strmota.

An additional but pressing issue for the Croatian demographic picture is that the labour market is entered late only to be left very early on, and there is an imbalance of what employers need and the skills and knowledge that Croatian workers have,'' added Strmota's faculty colleague Kresimir Ivanda.

“A fifth of those between the ages of 25 and 29 aren't working or are looking for work, and the situation is even worse with early retirements after the age of 50 when economic activity is rapidly declining,” he says.

"Croatia has the second shortest working life in Europe, of a mere 33 years, and 78 years is the average life expectancy," Ivanda illustrated.

"In terms of education and workforce, Croatia is currently where developed countries like Germany were decades ago. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the European Union is a single labour market and young people can apply to work anywhere in the bloc, and Croatia must figure out how to be the best of all to attract workers, and not just be a transit zone to other countries,'' he concluded.

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Thursday, 20 May 2021

Sisak-Moslavina County Has More Retirees Than Employed Residents

May the 20th, 2021 - It isn't new information, unless you've been living under a rock of course, that the Croatian demographic picture is far from ideal. Economic and demographic issues have reigned strong since long before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and some counties are far worse off than others. Sisak-Moslavina County currently being the most worrisome.

Croatia, like many Mediterranean countries, has an ageing population. With many members of the working age population leaving en masse to other European countries, taking advantage of the borders opening and the scrapping of work permits ever since Croatia joined the EU back in July 2013, this situation has only grown worse.

Traditionally, the Dalmatian coast has always fared better economically than more or less everywhere else in the country with the exception of Zagreb. With tourism providing for as much as 20 percent of Croatia's GDP, the summer months are employment-rich (in as much as is possible in the Croatian sense) and all about earning enough money to survive the winter before doing it all over again in Croatia's seasonal employment trap in which it has been stuck for years.

Continental Croatia, and particularly Eastern Croatia, have never had the God-given luxury of the Adriatic sea at their doorstep and as such have never been able to rest easily on their laurels in the same way Dubrovnik and Split do on an annual basis. The former bread basket of not only Croatia but the region, Slavonia and Baranja, have been experiencing a brain drain for very many years, with many other locations in Eastern and Central Croatia experiencing the same.

Sisak-Moslavina County, which was the victim of a devastating earthquake back at the very end of December last year, is among the most concerning of all. Now with more retired people than employed people, it's difficult to see how the future might look for this county. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Northern Croatia is a convincing national champion in terms of the ratio of total employees and pensioners, according to data from the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute.

According to this recently released data, Medjimurje County (1.66) and Varazdin County (1.54) have the highest ratio in favour of workers. By far the worst is the aforementioned Sisak-Moslavina County, which has more retirees than it does employees (the ratio is a troubling 0.95), followed by Sibenik and Karlovac (1.03) and Pozega County (1.04).

Among those cities which are also municipal county heads, Northern Croatia is again in the lead: in the top five in terms of the ratio of workers and pensioners there are three Northern Croatian cities, Varazdin (2.62), Cakovec (2.46) and Koprivnica (1.92). This data refets to figures recorded back the end of March this year, writes Danica.hr.

The average for the Republic of Croatia is 1.25 (just over one employee per pensioner), which is a long-term unsustainable situation for every sort of economy. Croatia as a whole currently has about 1.55 million employees and about 1.24 million retirees.

For more on Croatian demographics, follow our lifestyle section.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Croatian Emigrants in Germany Double Since Croatian EU Accession

April the 2nd, 2021 - The number of Croatian emigrants in Germany has doubled since Croatia joined the European Union (EU) back in July 2013 and freedom of movement laws became applicable to the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, there were 426,845 Croatian emigrants in Germany last year, which means that the number of Croatian citizens in that country almost doubled after Croatia's accession to the EU because there were 224,971 of them registered there back in 2012, Vecernji list reports.

According to the National Statistics Office in Wiesbaden, Croatian emigrants in Germany are in 6th place when it comes to foreign immigrants after the citizens of Turkey, Poland, Syria, Romania and Italy. Last year, 26,335 Croatian citizens immigrated from Croatia to Germany.

In the pandemic dominated year, Germany had the lowest influx of foreigners, but the question is how comforting it is that fewer Croatian citizens emigrated last year, especially compared to the worst years of exodus in 2018, 2017, and 2016 when, according to the precise German statistics, more than 50,000 Croatian citizens arrived in Germany.

Political scientist and historian Tado Juric from the Croatian Catholic University predicts that due to the change in the way of working brought about by the pandemic, which will increasingly lead to more and more remote work, the emigration of Croats to Germany could stop within around five years, and some of those previous Croatian emigrants in Germany could also return.

"The West won't give up on importing labour for some time to come as a key measure in rebuilding its population. But even that will not last forever. Under the influence of the fourth industrial revolution, which gained unprecedented acceleration with the appearance of the coronavirus crisis, a completely new form of economy was created.

Teleworking will replace many jobs in such a way that after the socialisation of workers and students, which we're only just witnessing, many occupations will move into the field of teleworking. That means that a worker from Moldova, for example, will do from his apartment what a Croat is doing now in Stuttgart. My assessment is that in five years, due to this complete transformation of the way of working that teleworking brings, emigration from Croatia will stop, but there will also be a bigger return of former emigrants home,'' said Juric.

For more on Croatian demographic issues, follow our politics page.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Will Lower Income Tax Rates Really Attract Croatian Emigrants Home?

March the 2nd, 2021 - Croatia has lowered its income tax rate and there are hopes that the move might attract a few Croatian emigrants home from Ireland. Just how realistic is such a hope? To some - it's even laughable.

As Novac/Ivan Zilic writes, there are fewer and fewer people in Croatia. According to demographers' estimates, up to 10 percent fewer people can be expected in the new census than in the 2011 census, a dramatic drop for an already very small country. If, by any chance, we lost 10 percent of Croatian territory in 10 years, and not 10 percent of the people, the alarm would likely have been louder, but in Croatia, land has a price, but people don't.

At the same time, even from a narrow-minded economic perspective, people are the most valuable resource any country has. Without people there is nobody to create, produce, spend, fill the budget, pay pensions, without people there can be no economy. This is something that has placed such a spotlight on Croatian emigrants as the country's demographic picture worsens.

Although demographic decline is a deeply layered problem, one of the important factors of Croatian depopulation is emigration, especially after the country joined the European Union back in 2013, when whole families headed off abroad in search of a better life. According to official data, in the seven years since joining the European Union, over 100,000 more people emigrated from Croatia than immigrated to it, but that number is actually higher, because official statistics fail to fully cover the scale of emigration.

Youth unemployment

Often when analysing the causes of migration, economists talk about the factors that encourage migration from a person's home country and the factors that attract migration to their destination country (push and pull factors). Analysing the causes of migration, the European Parliament's report Exploring migration causes - why people migrate, lists three basic groups of push and pull factors - socio-political, demographic-economic and environmental.

In the case of Croatian emigrants, these factors are often reduced down to the labour market, which gives migration an economic connotation. Indeed, looking only at the basic indicators of employment opportunities in Croatia and the countries to which Croats have emigrated in the last decade - Germany, Austria and Ireland - it's clear how unattractive Croatian economic optics are. For example, according to Eurostat data for 2019, the average annual net income in Germany, Austria and Ireland is more than three times higher than it is in Croatia, while youth unemployment (15-24 years) in Croatia is almost three times higher than in the aforementioned countries.

In addition to the labour market, a poor political economy also contributes to Croatian emigrants making the decision to jump ship. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Croatia is at the very bottom of the European Union, while when it comes to the Democracy Index, calculated by The Economist, the country has been falling in recent years. But perhaps the most important indicator of the poor state of the political economy and the general lack of perspective are the results of the Life in Transition survey, conducted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The results suggest that people in Croatia, but also in the entire former Yugoslavia, have record low beliefs that a decent life can be achieved through hard work and effort, and that political ties are a much more important factor.

Economic migration

It should be borne in mind that in the survey, Croatia is compared with post-transition countries and yet it still ranks low. By joining the European Union, the powers that be thought Croatia would become more powerful economically, but nobody counted on young, working age people going off to Ireland and Germany far more easily. They instead thought that Croatia would instead become as developed as Ireland and Germany. Not so.

Croatia's institutional and economic convergence with the European Union is a slow process, so emigration should be seen as a democratic act of "voting by foot". However, the emigration wave after Croatia's accession to the EU is a given situation. People who have left live in better and more responsible systems, and their return can be an opportunity to create the potential for social and economic change. Observing emigration to the Western Balkans, Ivlevs and King in their 2017 paper conclude that people who have a family member who emigrated have a lower propensity for corruption, and that emigration often causes the transfer of cultural norms from the place of emigration to the home country.

Additionally, there is evidence that the human capital that people acquire in migration in the event of return can have a positive impact on the economy. In a 2017 paper, Bahar and his co-workers looked at where refugees from the wars in the former Yugoslavia worked in Germany, and conclude that when these same people return to their countries, the sectors in which they worked begin to export more. Although the episode of war migration is different from the economic migration we're currently witnessing, some patterns can be revealed - people who have gone to more developed countries carry considerable human, financial and social capital, and an attempt should be made to bring them back.

Political will

Will many Croatian emigrants happily jump on a plane and return home from Ireland just because of a slightly lower income tax rate? In order to significantly eliminate the initial pressure on people to emigrate, Croatia needs to converge institutionally and economically with the European Union, and this requires more fundamental changes than changes in tax rates. We need to tackle the problems. Otherwise, existing worrying emigration and demographic trends will continue, and each new census will only bring worse news.

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Friday, 12 February 2021

Young Slavonian Mato Topic Returns from Germany to Zagreb

February the 12th, 2021 - A lot can be said for the grass being greener on the other side, and there can be no argument against the fact that Croatia has terribly neglected the eastern part of the country economically and in other ways, but for some, it takes actually leaving to see that the grass is green wherever you water it. Mato Topic from Slavonia experienced precisely that and decided to return home from Germany.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Bruno Lipej writes, Young Slavonian Mato Topic returned back home to Croatia a year and a half ago after spending three years living and working in Germany. He says that his acquaintances spoke to him in amazement: "Well, what are you going to do?" or, perhaps somewhat more honestly, "You're the only one coming back, what an idiot you are…"

He knew that he wouldn't have the standard of living and the style of an orderly life he had become used to in the German border town of Lorrach, located near Basel, when back home in Croatia, but his heart was aching for home.

"I can't explain it to you, in Germany I basically lacked nothing at all, but every time I crossed the Croatian border it was as if I was starting to breathe a pair of full lungs," he told Vecernji list. To make the story more interesting still, family wasn't the reason he left, as he he left behind his parents, brother and sister in Germany.

Until going to Germany, everything was more or less typical in Mato Topic's life in Slavonia. Both of his parents worked, but the family of five from Cepin didn't live in abundance with their Croatian salaries. Along with the daily sacrifices and efforts in the Cepin yard which belonged to Mato Topic's family, a new house was built. However, it seemed to his parents that the prospects werent' great for them or the children, and that things would simply stagnate. In 2013, when Croatia joined the European Union, they decided to leave Croatia and went to Germany.

"I knew that I'd really have to roll up my sleeves and that in Croatia I'd have to work much harder for a lot less money," said Mato Topic, who decided to return not to Slavonia, but to the far more prosperous capital of Zagreb. He wasn't unprepared for a starting salary of 3,500 kuna working in a call centre, though.

“In the meantime, I progressed, I became a deputy leader, I also led some training… Money is important, especially when you're young and have a lot of wishes and plans. But it's definitely not the most important thing. I was in Germany despite feeling like a total foreigner there. I realised that I didn’t want to wait for my annual holiday to come home every year, nor to build my life and start a family in the long run in a foreign country. My parents supported me,'' he said.

"With all the shortcomings and irregularities in Croatia, and even injustices, I have confidence in Croatia. I just feel that way,'' the hopeful Mato Topic told Vecernji list.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

Croatian Population Growing Older, Demographic Crisis Worsening

February the 8th, 2021 - The Croatian demographic picture hasn't improved, and the Croatian population is only getting older.

As Gojko Drljaca/Novac writes, since the start of a new wave of emigration back in 2013 when Croatia joined the European Union, Slavonia, Sisak-Moslavina, Lika-Senj and Šibenik-Knin counties have been all but devastated, and earthquakes and even a pandemic have occurred. They will only make the situation worse, both in terms of domestic and cross-border migration. The elderly Croatian population is particularly vulnerable.

The pandemic only exposed all the sensibilities of an ''old'' Croatia. What can stop the emigration of the Croaian population from the areas affected by the earthquake now? How can we bring life back to the hinterland of Split-Dalmatia County?  Is there a single recipe for Croatian demographic renewal at all, or should a whole set of measures be applied and implemented at all administrative levels? These are all problems and issues that were touched on in the panel discussion "Aging and Emigration" with Sanja Klempic Bogada, scientific advisor at the Centre for Migration and Demographic Research of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, and Kresimir Ivanda, a scientist from the Zagreb Faculty of Economics. The panel discussion "Aging and Emigration" is part of the Croatia of the New Generation project.

Aging and emigration are two factors that predetermine the demographic picture of Croatia in the future.

''We're at the top of the age indicator of the population, we can say that we are a very old nation not only in Europe but also in the world. Just over 20 percent of the Croatian population is 65 or older. Aging is a global trend, and not just in Europe as the oldest continent. Aging is a process that happens significantly faster in less developed countries. In Croatia, the negative aspects of aging are often highlighted, thus creating a rather negative image of older people. However, people over the age of 65 are very often resourceful and financially independent. Not all seniors are a huge burden to the state. In fact, this problem was generated by the fact that the state pursued the policy of early retirement and, regardless of the demographic picture, created a large number of retirees who left the labour market prematurely,'' warned Klempic Bogadi, while Kresimir Ivanda emphasised the impact of the age of the Croatian population:

''There's been a change in spending, changes in the way of investing in the areas which become depopulated and increased allocations for the costs of the pension, healthcare and social system. We're seeing a large shift in consumption, both in a public and a private sense, towards the elderly population. We have, therefore, on the one hand, increased costs, and on the other hand we have a changed structure of consumption. This problem of the nation's aging is linked to the increasingly pronounced problem of emigration.

Today, the consequences of emigration are much more visible and stronger than they were back in the waves which occurred in Croatia 50-70 years ago. We used to have a much larger share of a young population, that is, labour reserves that we no longer have today. In the 1960s, there were five or more employees per retiree. Today, when we have only 1.4 employees per retiree, it's clear that every single emigrant is a bigger economic problem than they used to be. If we look at the scale of emigration, then and today, we're somewhere around the total number, but today's emigration will have more serious consequences,'' warned Ivanda.

Emigrants are a heterogeneous group, Klempic Bogadi added, but in principle it can be said that in the 1960s and 1970s, most people left rural areas and were mostly made up of unskilled labour.

''The former state somewhat limited the emigration of the well-educated Croatian population. However, in that period in the 1960s and 1970s, Croatia was filled with immigrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who made up for the loss of the population. Today, people of different profiles are emigrating; highly educated people, and young people, but also older individuals. Croatia no longer has a "demographic stock" to import from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Demographic trends there are also negative and we can no longer count on solving part of the problem through migration from that neighbouring country. In addition, today's emigrants are different than they were back in the sixties because they only used to leave for temporary work, often coming back. The countries that received them calculated that they would stay only temporarily, they didn't try to integrate them. A significant part of these people still remained abroad, but today it's impossible to say how many emigrants plan to return at all when they leave. It's unclear what the long-term consequences will be,'' stated Klempic Bogadi.

Not everything about Croatian population issues is so black…

''Foreign currency remittances are growing from year to year. This means that connections are being maintained, and these remittances have an effect. Remittances are a kind of protective social network. After the crisis, from 2009 to 2013, these remittances had a very favourable effect on the Croatian economy, but during the expansion of the economy they often have the opposite effect because they usually go into current consumption. They may even slow down the employment of those who really do depend on these remittances. This has also been observed in other remittance-dependent countries, such as Mexico,'' Ivanda explained.

In a number of aging developed nations, the question is beginning to arise as to whether gross domestic product is an adequate measure of a country's performance. How does GDP measure success if a population which is too old limits growth?

''We can't measure everything in society through economic profit. Countries like Japan or Denmark have long since realised that they must adapt their economies to the needs of the elderly,'' said Klempic Bogadi, who sees the great potential of the so-called silver economy.

''We don't have too many old people, but we do have too few young people. It’s fantastic to live longer than we ever have before in history, but it will bring costs and challenges, and GDP will be hard to replace soon. Even with the aging Croatian population, GDP has a comparison function. We are, very old, as is Germany, but again we have very different levels of GDP,'' Ivanda said.

One of the key problems arising from the combined problems of an aging Croatian population is the sustainability of the pension system.

''Croatia, along with Italy, has the shortest expected working life. The average man is expected to have only 35 years of experience, and they go off o work in Sweden and the Netherlands for more than 42 years. Life expectancy has been extended and working life has been shortened. The key problem is therefore people leaving the labour market prematurely,'' stated Klempic Bogadi.

''Not only do we retire too early, but we enter the labour market too late. Between the ages of thirty and forty-five, we're comparable in employment to the rest of Europe, but not up to the age of thirty. In addition, the picture of the labour market after the age of 55 is particularly worrying… Approximately half of pensions are spent on full old-age pensions. All the others are some other categories. That isn't something that has only been occurring recently. That has been going on for about sixty years now. It isn't a solution if you push three people to retire and hire only one younger person,'' added Ivanda, who believes that in the future, we'll have more highly educated people in the labour market because they usually work for a longer time period.

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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Much Anticipated 2021 Croatian Census Now Postponed Indefinitely?

January 31, 2021 – Long in preparation and last undertaken way back in 2011, media reports that the much anticipated 2021 Croatian census may now be postponed indefinitely

Preparations for the 2021 Croatian census have been long in the making. Plans have been ongoing since 2016. The last census was undertaken back in 2011 and the population has been impacted by both immigration and emigration since then. But, nobody is exactly sure by how much. This information was just some of the vital data people had hoped would be delivered by the 2021 Croatian census. But, now that may not happen. Some Croatian media is now saying the Croatian census has been postponed indefinitely.

Just one month ago the director of the Central Bureau of Statistics, Lidija Brković, said before the Parliamentary Committee for Local Self-Government that all preparations were being carried out with a view to the Croatian census taking place as scheduled. In an interview with N1 at the beginning of December, Boris Milosevic, Croatia's deputy prime minister (in whose department the Croatian census lies), also said the same.

But the census will not begin as planned on 1st April 2. N1 is currently reporting that it has been postponed indefinitely.

The coordinator for the census in the Central Bureau of Statistics, Damir Plesac, said that the main reason is the coronavirus. The Central Bureau of Statistics does not yet know for how long the Croatian census will be postponed because, as Plesac says, it will depend on epidemiological measures and the decision of the government and parliament, which must change the Census Act.

Croatian media ascertain from his answers that the census might not be expected to be completed before June 2021. To the question “is it weeks or months of delay?” Mr Plesac answered that it would be months.

Most of the Croatian census will therefore be moved until after the local elections in May. In their coverage of the census's indefinite postponement, the national portal Index reminds that some campaigning taking place in the run-up to these elections is focussing heavily on the numerical and demographical information that the Croatian census would provide.

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Thursday, 28 January 2021

Novska Baby Boom? Families From Across Country Moving to Town

January the 28th, 2021 - 2020 might have been a terrible year for a multitude of reasons, but for Croatia's future gaming centre, Novska, there has been some good news if we're looking at a previously unfavourable demographic picture. The Novska baby boom took place in 2020.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, finally some good news has come out of earthquake-stricken Sisak-Moslavina County. The highest number of children were born in Novska last year in comparison to the last six years. A total of 138 babies were born during the so-called Novska baby boom, as many as twenty more than were born in 2019. While Novska, where many families are arriving has done exceptionally well, they’re not the only ones to have recorded a baby boom in Croatia in 2020.

Kindergartens are full, RTL news reports. In the last three years, two such facilities have been expanded and two more have been built, but even that will not be enough. In the autumn of 2020, 278 children were enrolled, which is the highest in the last 45 years! There are now 350 of them.

Preliminary data shows that in as many as thirteen counties across the whole of Croatia, the pandemic-dominated 2020 was actually a very fruitful year in terms of births.

Novska has become the centre of the blooming Croatian gaming industry, offices are being opened there, and in addition to children, new games are also being made. Young people and families from all over Croatia are coming to live here, and yes, that’s why Novska managed to see the arrival of twenty more babies in 2020 than it did the year before, a total of 138. In six or seven years, they will have one whole class of children more.

As previously touched on, according to initial data, another thirteen Croatian counties can boast of having more babies born in 2020 than one year earlier. According to county-level data, Croatia is now richer by 800 children.

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Thursday, 21 January 2021

Zagreb Population Exceeds 800,000, Population Growing in One Other County

January the 21st, 2021 - The Zagreb population has recorded growth, exceeding the figure of 800,000. Only one other county in the country has experienced similar population growth in the last ten years, and that is Istria County.

As Ljubica Gataric/Vecernji list writes, only has the Zagreb population and that of Istria County increased in the past decade, while all other Croatian counties have lost more than two hundred thousand inhabitants. That's like a city the size of Split or the entire Istria County disappearing in a mere ten years.

Istria has seen a slight increase of only a thousand inhabitants, while the Zagreb population has grown, taking in about 17,000 people from the surrounding areas and growing to 807,000. According to the CBS, the Zagreb population surpassed the so-called magic number of 800,000 inhabitants back in 2016 and has been growing slowly since then thanks to the fact that it is the strongest economic centre in the entire country.

Earthquake-stricken Sisak-Moslavina County lost a concerning 27,000 inhabitants, Osijek-Baranja lost an even more worrying 33,000, Primorje-Gorski Kotar lost 12,000, and close to zero - with a deficit of about 900 people, is the tourist Mecca of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. 

Until recently, the demographic depopulation of rural areas and smaller Croatian towns created an army of unemployed people who were reserve labour. The long-running economic crisis and unemployment created the illusion of an abundance of human labour potential. For decades now, high unemployment rates across the country have created secure labour reserves. That's why relatively low salaries were possible, especially in occupations which only required lower-level qualifications.

''With the influx of fewer and fewer working-age people, further aggravated by emigration, those aforementioned labour reserves have dried up in just a few years,'' said demographers Anđelko Akrap and Kresimir Ivanda in a large economic analysis of Croatian counties, prepared by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) for the fourth year in a row.

''All relevant demographic indicators show that the inflow to the labour market is decreasing from year to year. Thus, economic policy makers need to take into account the almost progressive narrowing of the demographic framework of labour supply. Continuing the current demographic trends, by 2051, the number of working age population (15 to 64 years) in Croatia will decrease by more than a million inhabitants, the number of young people (0-14 years) will decrease by about 273 thousand and, conversely, the number those aged 65 and over will increase by about 185,000, the demographers say, concluding that Croatia quite simply cannot count on economically sustainable development.

Actual Croatian GDP values ​​show large differences between various economic groups, countries and even regions. More specifically, if we look at the European Union as a whole, Germany, the strongest economy, accounts for approximately 25 percent of total EU GDP and is as many as 260 times larger than Malta, which is economically the weakest. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, the five economically strongest members, generate as much as 70 percent of the EU's total GDP, so it can be concluded that this is a high concentration of production of goods and services in a small number of member states.

Croatia is among the economically weaker member states in terms of actual economic strength, ie in terms of the size of its GDP (from 2019) it ranks 21st and participates in the total GDP of the EU with only 0.4 percent. Comparing the GDP of Croatian counties provides a rather similar picture of such a view of the EU. The economically strongest City of Zagreb, according to the latest available data for the year 2017, generates as much as 34 percent of Croatia's total GDP and is almost forty times economically stronger than the typically neglected Lika-Senj County, which generates only 0.9 percent of Croatia's GDP.

This high concentration is also noticeable when looking at the five economically strongest Croatian counties, which together generate 63 percent of total GDP, while at the same time the five economically weakest counties together generate only 6.6 percent of national GDP. Thus, there are large regional differences to be seen in terms of general economic strength, but Croatia doesn't differ in that sense from a number of other countries.

The economically weaker Croatian counties were most deeply affected by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, especially the five Slavonian counties and the previously mentioned Lika-Senj county. Thus, the data shows that these six counties generated 14.2 percent of national GDP way back in 2008, 12.7 percent back in 2014, and 12.3 percent according to the latest data for 2017.

When it comes to 2017, it can be noted that the most dynamic growth was achieved in three counties of Adriatic Croatia, namely Zadar, Sibenik-Knin and Dubrovnik-Neretva counties, which can be largely attributed to good tourism performance and little else.

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