Sunday, 8 September 2019

Istrian War Veterans Saddened by Croatia's Demographic Crisis

As Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 7th of September, 2019, Deputy Prefect of Istria County, Fabrizio Radin, and Deputy Mayor of Pula, Robert Cvek, recently hosted a reception for members of the 119th Croatian Army Brigade on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of its founding in Istria, Croatia.

Radin said the County and the City are actively participating in these anniversaries every year, and he pledged his support to continue. He said they were open to talks, not just about anniversaries, but about all other current affairs. He noted that as of next year, Istria County is taking over the affairs of the state administration, which involves issues related to the issues of war veterans (branitelji).

''If we've been closely linked so far in terms of cooperation, then by next year, we will surely be even more linked,'' Radin stated.

Mayor Cvek congratulated the 119th Brigade, saying that Istria must be and is proud of all that the brigade members accomplished in the defense of Croatia during the Homeland War, and especially that their war paths were honourable and free of any ''stains''.

The 119th Brigade's Roberto Fabris recalled that the brigade was founded on September the 7th, 1991, and that it covered the whole of Istria with four battalions - one in Umag, one in Pazin, and two in Pula. He recalled that a large number of JNA members were still stationed in Pula at the time and that the most important task was to try to preserve the peace.

The brigade made its way to Lika, was in Slavonia and even down south in the Ston area, and the highlight of their operation was certainly the military-police operation Storm (Oluja), Fabris said, recalling that seven members of the brigade were killed in war operations, and 82 were in some way wounded.

''Istria must be proud of its 119th Brigade, as well as all other units in the area. Our brigade is proud of everyone because it carried out all the tasks that were put before it without stains,'' Fabris said in an emotional speech, explaining that he could not hide his strong emotions because he had spent as many as 1,700 days in the brigade. He entered at the age of 25, and came out at the age of 30. He had left his entire young life on the battlefields, he said.

''Almost 90 percent of the members returned to their jobs and ordinary lives after the war, but we're proud of what we've achieved and will not let our journey be forgotten. The only thing that hurts me personally, and I believe hurts others, is that our children today are leaving the land we created. But I believe in a better future,'' Fabris concluded.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Some Croatian Cities Have No Demographic Problems - Here's Why

As Novac/ writes on the 30th of July, 2019, the number of children born since 2009 on Croatian territory has been declining, and in those ten years, about seven and a half thousand babies less were born. The fewest births in that 10-year period occurred in 2017, when 36,556 babies were born, while last year that figure was ''fixed'' by a further 389 newborns.

36,945 babies were born last year, or 1.1 percent more than in 2017, and 52,706 people died last year, down 1.4 percent from one year before.

Considering the fact that the number of deaths on Croatian territory continuously exceeds the number of births, the natural increase remains negative. In the last ten years, 2017 and 2015 were the worst when judging by that indicator. Last year's natural increase rate was -3.9, meaning that 15,761 more people died than were born.

A positive natural increase was recorded in 58 Croatian cities and municipalities, 492 cities and municipalities had a negative result, including the City of Zagreb, and five of them had zero natural increase. Novac performed an analysis, city by city. Last year, there were more births than deaths in twelve Croatian cities, and more deaths than births in nine. Like last year, Solin, Metković, Kaštela and Dugo Selo had the most positive growth.

Last year, 278 babies were born in Solin, with a natural increase of 79 more births than deaths. The second largest city with the highest natural increase is in Split-Dalmatia County, in the coastal town of Kaštela, where 404 babies were born and 354 people died.

Metković followed with a natural increase of 47 new babies, Dugo Selo then followed with 37 new babies, Poreč with 27 new babies, Čakovec with 20, Sinj with 15, Novigrad Istarski with 5, and Orahovica and Vodnjan with four newborns. Vrgorac and Biograd na Moru had a positive increase with three, and two inhabitants. All other Croatian cities had a negative growth rate, ie, in one year, more people died than were born. From two counties, Istria and Split-Dalmatia, there are three cities with a positive natural increase.

All Croatian cities with a positive population growth are classified as medium and small cities, and they have a series of measures to retain their population and bring in new people in common. Newborn baby benefits are being raised, kindergartens are being built, housing incentives are being introduced, and entrepreneurship is being encouraged to create new jobs.

For several years now, Solin has been a record holder in Croatia in terms of natural population increase. This is certainly due to a number of measures introduced solely for children and young people.

“Solin is building two new kindergartens, with an investment value of 30,000,000 kuna. For the work of the Cvrčak (Cricket) kindergarten, which is majority owned by the City of Solin, 28,582,000 kuna will be allocated for 2019. In 2019, 2,404,000 kuna was earmarked for co-financing the work of private kindergartens (five kindergartens and one child care company). A total of 30,986,000 kuna has been planned for financing pre-school education in 2019, which is almost one third of the original budget,'' Solin's mayor Dalibor Ninčević told Novac.

He noted that Soline is also implementing various projects to help both children and their parents. Particularly noteworthy are the financial assistance measures for families with four or more children, which 95 families used in 2018, and financial support during maternity leave, which entails an additional monthly support of 700 kuna.

After Kaštela, where 15 more babies were born in 2018 than there were in 2017, and the natural increase stands at 50 inhabitants more, the next in line for positive population increase comes Metković, where 164 children were born last year, and the natural increase was 47 more live births than deaths.

Last year, the City of Metković secured the provision of textbooks for all students from the second to fourth grades who attend Metković's elementary schools, since Dubrovnik-Neretva County provided everything for those in the first grade.

“Last year, the price of kindergartens was reduced by 150 kuna, or 100 kuna, depending on the length of stay of the children. The financial allocation for newborn babies has also been increased: for the first child, it has risen from 1000 to 2500 kuna, for the second, it has risen from 1200 to 3500 kuna, for the third child, it has risen from 1400 to 4500, and for the fourth and every child after the fourth, the financial benefit has increased from 2000 to 5500 kuna.

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Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Dalmatians Saving Croatian Population: More Births On Coast

In only eleven Croatian cities and 47 municipalities out of a total of 566, were there more births than deaths, but most children were born in the coastal counties.

As Morski writes on the 23rd of July, 2019, Croatia's demographic picture continues to be bleak, and what might seem like a dying nation is being kept above water mainly by Dalmatians, which act as a bright spot on the demographic map of this country, where, as mentioned, out of a total of 566 Croatian cities and municipalities, only eleven cities and 47 municipalities were there more births than deaths last year.

In 2018, Split-Dalmatia County had the largest municipalities and cities with a positive natural population increase, included are four towns, Kaštela, Sinj, Solin, and Vrgorac, and ten municipalities, Baška Voda, Bol, Dugopolje, Klis, Podbablje, Podgora, Podstrana, Postira, Prolog, and Zadvarje, all of which had more births than deaths. This has been proven by the latest data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, Večernji list writes.

As stated, the Croatian cities and municipalities with a positive natural increase are mostly coastal counties, in Split-Dalmatia, Zadar, Istria, with one continental Croatian exception - Međimurje County.

52,706 people died in 2018 in Croatia, and 36,945 babies were born, in as many as 492 Croatian towns and municipalities and the City of Zagreb, there was a population decrease and only five municipalities and cities had the same number of births and deaths.

Although 389 more babies were born in 2018 than in 2017, that's merely a drop in the ocean, and a worrying one at that, when it is a well known fact that Croatia had more than 7,500 more births back in 2009 than today.

Demographer from Ivo Pilar Institute, prof. dr. Nenad Pokos, points out that the number of live births compared to deaths was recorded in only 58 Croatian municipalities and cities, or just 10.2 percent of their total number.

''Of the positive examples in the first place, it's certainly worth mentioning the town of Sinj, where there were 15 more people born last year than died, while in 2017, there were 42 more deaths than births.

In Sinj, the number of live births is larger than it was 2015, by as many as 34 births, and then compared again to 2016 where there 25 births, so in Sinj's case, we can rightly say that it is one of the few places to have recorded a baby boom.

In the Split area, the number of municipalities and towns with a natural increase is higher as Solin, Kaštela, Dugopolje, Klis and Podstrana are located here, while in Dugi Rat there is an equal number of live births and deaths.

The number of places with natural population growth in the Zadar region (Biograd, Bibinje, Galovac, Pakoštane, Poličnik and Tkon) is relatively high, while once again, Zadar has a natural decline as it also did last year, although during the period between 2011-2017, there were 355 more births than deaths.

In the Rijeka area, the record holder for natural population growth is still the Municipality of Viškovo, where the younger population has been coming and settling for the past few decades due to the possibility of easier employment in the immediate vicinity, as well as lower land prices and cheaper living costs than in Rijeka itself.

In Omišalj, there are more births than there are deaths, which is due to the proximity of Rijeka, the Rijeka suburbs, and Kostrena, stated Pokos.

More than births than deaths have also been recorded by ten towns and municipalities in Istria County, but they are very low numbers because only Poreč and the municipality of Tinjan have more births, more precisely five more, than deaths.

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Sunday, 21 July 2019

When Will Croatia's Emigration Stop? Experts Weigh In

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 20th of July, 2019, based on economic trends and the number of residents in other transition countries, Croatian economist Velimir Šonje estimates that less developed countries, as well as Croatia can stabilise their number of inhabitants when they reach 80 percent of EU average.

The message from Tao Zhang, the deputy director of the IMF, was that Croatia's region would grow old before it gets richer, ie, before it reaches a certain level of economic development that will provide all of its inhabitants with a decent standard.

Bleak outlooks dominate in almost all of Croatia's demographic forecasts by which the number of older people will be doubled by the middle of the century, and by the end of the century, there will be two retirees for every one working individual, Večernji list writes.

As stated, based on economic trends and the number of residents in other transition countries, Croatian economist Velimir Šonje estimates that less developed countries, as well as Croatia, can manage to stabilise their numbers of inhabitants when they reach 80 percent of EU average. - The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia, with no particular population decline, are around or above 80 percent of the EU average.

Estonia, which has recently reached that level, had experienced a decline earlier, but it eventually stopped, says Šonje. A researcher from the Vienna Institute, Isolda Mara, came to the conclusion that salary growth resulted in the slowing of certain types of migration. Another conclusion was also drawn, that external mobility from the newer EU member states had slowed down since 2015, and is likely to remain at a lower level in the future.

However, this analyst also points out the fact that it is too early to talk about stronger return migration. 2018 could prove to be a breakthrough year for Croatia, because last year, there was a decrease in emigration and growth in immigration ever since Croatia joined the European Union back in 2013. New Europe is copying Western countries more than those in Croatia realise it is, and they're filling their own labour market gaps with immigration from their less developed, poorer close neighbours.

Even though it makes up part of the group of countries that have managed to reach 80 percent of the average EU GDP, emigration is also still present in neighbouring Slovenia, where this year, according to official information, there are about 40,000 foreigners working there, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Unlike Croatian migrants who raise their anchors and take their entire families with them abroad, Slovenians prefer daily migration and travel to work in Austria or Italy, but continue to ''make their beds'' at home in Slovenia.

''Croatia's tragedy is the fact that it could already be close to 80 percent of EU's average growth. In 2007, Croatia was at 61 percent of the EU average, Poland was at 53 percent, and today Poland is at 71 percent! In the meantime, Croatia has steadily grown two percentage points faster than the EU average, today Croatia could have been at 76 percent instead of at 63 percent,'' said Velimir Šonje, who calculated that Croatia would reach 85 percent of the EU's average development level by 2035, if it continued to grow two percentage points faster than the EU average.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Croatian Emigration to Germany and Ireland Slows, Grows for Sweden

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 17th of July, 2019, according to data from Destatis, the German statistical office, 51,197 people who hold Croatian citizenship moved from Croatia to Germany in 2018. This is the first time that a drop in emigration from Croatia to Germany has been recorded, Večernji list writes.

Judging by the data from Germany and Ireland, emigration from Croatian citizens coming from Croatia has actually slowed down. The latest figures from the German and Irish statistics offices show that in the first half of this year, for the first time since Croatia's EU accession, the number of immigrants from Croatia has decreased.

According to the aforementioned German statistical office, this is the very first time that a drop in emigration from Croatia to Germany has been recorded and this has halted the trend that, according to the same data, has lasted for ten years, long before Croatian membership of the EU.

During 2017, 52,791 Croatian citizens moved to Germany, while in 2016 it was a record, when 57,155 Croatian citizens moved from Croatia to Germany. However, when it comes to this office, it is important to point out that two types of data are being published for Croats, which can cause confusion and different interpretations by media, as well as by experts.

"When we talk about Croatian citizens, we differentiate between emigration actually from Croatia and the emigration of all those who just have Croatian citizenship but are coming from other countries, especially those outside the EU. Of them, 51,197 have moved to Germany since last year, while the total number of those who just have a Croatian passport in Germany numbered 57,724 The difference of 6,527 people means that they came from a third country outside of the EU,'' the German office told Vecernji list.

However, historian and political scientist Dr. Tado Jurić of the Croatian Catholic University says it isn't true that the trend of Croatian emigration to Germany is dropping. In April 2019, when the disinformation began to spread significantly about the drop in emigration to Germany, he warned that the figures that were being put out by the media about emigration were far from real. He has claimed that this may be a deliberate misrepresentation of data, or simply a lack of statistical reading methodology.

''According to data from the Federal Migration Office (BamF), which provides final immigration data and which is always used by the German Parliament, back in 2016, there were 51,163 immigrants from Croatia, in 2017, there were 50,283, and last year, there were 51,197 according to Destatis. Destatis takes all people with Croatian citizenship into consideration, and BamF includes immigrants and returnees from Croatia and is therefore more precise,'' according to Jurić. BamFa's data for 2018 will be announced in October this year.

Jurić believes that the number of Croatian returnees will increase in the next few years.

The jump in Croatian emigration was of course most visible after the country joined the EU and adopted the four fundamental freedoms of the single market, one of which is the free movement of labour.

Back in 2008, 8,418 Croatian citizens moved to Germany, in 2013, the year Croatia joined the EU, 24,845 of them went to Germany, in 2014, 43,843 of them went to Germany, and in 2015, when the German labour market became fully open to Croatian citizens, 57,996 Croatian citizens moved there. The second destination to which Croats tend to emigrate - Ireland - recorded a fall in arrivals from Croatia for the first time in 2018.

The Irish Central Statistical Office estimates the number of immigrants according to the number of Personal Public Service Numbers (PPSN), an identification number similar to the Croatian OIB used for employment and social benefits.

In the first six months of 2019, 1,648 numbers were issued to Croatian citizens, while in the same period last year, as many as 2,119 Croats received a number. The same trend is seen in Ireland as in Germany - in 2009 only 60 PPSN numbers were issued, and a significant jump is seen upon Croatia's accession to the EU. From 483 to 2,103, the number jumped up to 2,091 in 2014, and doubled a year later to 4,342, and peaked in 2016 with 5,312 issued PPSNs.

By 2017, the number fell slightly to 4,908, and the decline continued last year when 4,346 Croatian citizens received a PPSN number, this year, a reduction of nearly a quarter has already been seen in Ireland. However, in Sweden, the number of immigrants from Croatia is climbing - there are now 1,150 Croatian citizens legally there, there were 1,084 back in 2017, and for years before that the number was always around 1,000.

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Irish Dream Shatters for Croatian Woman: ''I Cried Every Day''

The Croatian demographic crisis is becoming more and more concerning as time goes on. The fact that some don't actually announce their departure to MUP and other relevant bodies when leaving the country tends to cloud the true number of people who have left Croatia in search of a new life abroad, a negative trend which has increased enormously, posing a serious threat to the domestic economy, since Croatia joined the European Union in July 2013.

Upon joining the EU, Croatia entered the single market, one of the fundamental four freedoms of which is the free movement of labour. Barriers to the labour markets of other, wealthier European countries in the West, such as that of Ireland, fell, and with that so did Croatia's numbers.

While it cannot be argued that Western European countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom are more desirable in an economic sense, anyone who has spent any time in those countries (I spent 21 years of my life in the UK), will be quick to tell you that the rivers aren't flowing with milk and honey, and that landing employment and a living wage isn't that easy at all. Still, many hungry for a good wage and better conditions are blind to these warnings, and cheap one-way Ryanair tickets to Dublin are almost too difficult to resist.

Not every story ends in success and happiness, and despite what many Croatian publications tend to claim, there are numerous people who have realised that The Good Life in countries like Britain and Ireland is just as plagued as anywhere else, and they do make the trip back to Croatia. Here's one such story from Poslovni Dnevnik/VLM on the 16th of July, 2019, which is more than worth paying attention to.

''I got the impression that it was amazing for everyone who went there - people were buying cars, living well, they were managing to save money. Overnight, I decided to go to Ireland and told myself I'm going to do something with my life,'' says Adrijana from the continental Croatian town of Virovitica.

As stated, emigration has become one of the burning topics in Croatian public life during the last few years. Many in search of their daily bread, and more of it for their work, went off to wealthier European countries like Germany, the UK and Ireland. Some adjusted and liked their lives there, some didn't, some decided to pick their battles and stay for work, to save, but there are also many who came back.

Among the latter is 40-year-old Adrijana Ružička, a Virovitica-native from Zagreb, who told Deutsche Welle just why she returned from the emerald isle to Croatia.

"I left with assurance that I'd be better off, but then I realised what my priorities in life were. When you leave your country and make your way yourself abroad, when you're separated from your family and friends, you realise that you just miss it all far too much and you don't need the money to be happy. I realised that my home and my family were a source of personal happiness and that I didn't want to have a separated family and miss my son's diploma, and then today, or tomorrow, his marriage and the birth of my grandchildren. I missed my husband and son so much that my heart broke and every day I cried. In addition, I'm an only child, and my parents are old, so it wasn't acceptable for me to not be in a position to be there and help them when they needed it,'' Adrijana said.

Before leaving Ireland, she worked as a bookkeeper, which she continues to do now, but with better financial terms. The main reason for going to Ireland was of course, money, she had a low salary, and lived as a sub-tenant. Her husband was due to come and join in several months.

Adrijana, who ended up in Killarney, south of Dublin, was quickly disenchanted by the stark reality of becoming a foreigner in a strange (and rainy) land, and was hired as a maid at a hotel. The Irish dream was fading, and fast.

Her salary was far higher than the one she received in Croatia, but it turned out that for the usual Irish conditions, she was actually working for minimum wage. Her gross income was 1,600 euros, her net earnings were 1,420 euros, and her apartment and utilities sucked up 850 euros...

After everything was paid for, as well as food, 200-300 euros remained in her pocket, and as she says herself, life in Ireland can be very expensive. Still, she says she is not sorry she went to Ireland because she is richer for the experience, learned a lot, and that Ireland taught her what is important, and how to save.

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Saturday, 29 June 2019

26,000 Croats Returned to Croatia from Working Abroad Last Year

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of June, 2019, according to unofficial estimates, about 300,000 Croatian citizens have left the Republic of Croatia since 2013, the year that Croatia joined the European Union, the same year that freedom of movement was adopted as part of the EU's four fundamental freedoms for Croatia's access to the single market.

According to official statistics, 2018 will be hopefully remembered as a year during which the growing number of people leaving Croatia to seek work abroad finally slowed down, and an increase in returnees was marked.

As far as returnees are concerned, it will be known in mid-July when the the competent body publishes more detailed data, but according to the first pieces of data available now in Croatia, 26,000 citizens have come from abroad, Večernji list writes.

Despite this, Croatia's migration balance remains negative and the number of those who have left is about 13,000 higher than the number of those who have returned, but the number of citizens leaving the country, which now stands at 39,000, down from 47,000 a year earlier, has obviously decreased. The number of returnees nearly doubled from 15.5 thousand back in 2017, which could mean that the number of people who left the country are beginning to return in larger numbers than they have done over the past six years.

According to unofficial estimates, about 300,000 citizens have left Croatia since 2013, the year which marked the country's accession to the EU. When looking at the last year before Croatia's full EU entry - 2012, about 13,000 citizens migrated from Croatia, and around 9,000 citizens immigrated to the country.

According to international methodology, immigrants from abroad are considered persons who have changed their normal state of residence for a period that is, or is at least expected to be, at least one year. For example, in 2017, about 30,000 citizens moved out of Croatia to Germany, and about three thousand returned.

The number of immigrants from abroad during the year 2018 has been the largest ever since such measurements were conducted, and this includes the approval and issuing of temporary residence permits in Croatia, the list of which Vecernji list received several months ago from the Ministry of the Interior (MUP).

MUP say they approved a temporary residence permits for 43,219 foreigners last year, almost three times more than in 2016, and as a consequence of an increase in Croatia's quota for the employment of foreigners. When it comes to foreigners who were granted temporary residence last year, nearly 80 percent, or 31 thousand of them come from countries that make up the former Yugoslavia - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

For now, it appears that the less educated are attracted to Croatia, as only five percent (about two thousand) are highly qualified. About 28,000 of these foreign residents are under the age of 39, most of whom come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the citizens of which make up 20,000 of them. Otherwise, work permits are issued for seasonal workers (for third country nationals) for a period of less than a year.

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Sunday, 28 April 2019

More Than Third of Graduates with Diplomas in Croatia Unemployed

As Mirela Lilek/Novac writes on the 27th of April, 2019, Croatia's situation still isn't good: the country is continuing to ''produce'' graduates with the third lowest employment rate in the whole of the European Union, and as a result, taxpayers pay more and more money for them. According to new data from Brussels, based on a comparative survey of youth employment among Croats with diplomas earned in the last three years, a third of highly educated people aged between 20 to 34 in Croatia have no jobs. Only Italy and Greece are worse.

Of the 28 countries EU member states, Croatia ranked 26th with a 66 percent employability rate. Four positions above Croatia lies Romania, Bulgaria is six places above, and Slovakia is nine places above. Croatia's neighbour to the north, Slovenia, is eleven places above Croatia, Poland is thirteen places above (impressively right behind Ireland and Denmark), and the Czech Republic, with an 89.9 percent employability rate which has impressed the European Commission's experts - has risen to an enviable fourth place.

Malta is in first place in Europe as an employer of its graduates with diplomas, the employment rate of Maltese students stands at a very impressive 94.5 percent, even better than Germany, which boasts a rate of 90.9 percent, followed then by the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and then Austria. The EU average is on the rise, back in 2014 it stood at 76 percent and in 2018 it stood at 80.2 percent. Unfortunately, the Croats have been close to the bottom for years, more specifically for fifteen years, as it has a below-average rate of employability in relation to the EU. Of course, rather than attempt to fix the problem directly, the Croats are doing what the Croats always do - continuing to debate and argue over who is (more) to blame for such embarrassing conditions.

Economists see the issue as being that the Croats aren't adapting easily to the market, and that Croatia also has an old education system. At Croatia's universities, they argue that the key issue isn't Croatia's higher education institutions, but an underdeveloped labour market, low personal income, and demotivating working conditions. Experts from the European Commission have given a relatively simple answer: Investing in education will benefit everyone in Europe.

Let's see how they explain their theories in some of the country's universities, starting with the largest "producers" of graduates in the entire country, the Faculty of Philosophy and Economics in Zagreb.

''We're aware of the importance of linking study programs and labour market needs. In this regard, the Faculty of Economics makes an effort to make it easier for students to access the labour market by establishing multilateral cooperation with companies and respectable institutions that enable students to perform high-quality professional practices,'' stated Sanja Sever Mališ, who deals with strategic partnerships and projects at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. The basic message from this particular Zagreb university is that "they connect students and employers so their best students can find work even during their studies." Therefore, there is no concern for them.

On the other hand, Vesna Vlahović-Štetić, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, admits that Croatia's humiliating placement at the bottom of the employability scale of graduates is still something to be very concerned about and therefore the causes of that need to be looked at.

''I assume that part of the problem lies in insufficient development and the ability of the economy and the public sector to absorb newly graduated students. On the other hand, the question is how many colleges and higher education institutions meet the needs of society with their respective programs. At the state level, in some professions there's hyper-production, and in others there is a lack of experts. Additionally, study programs should be regularly updated and developed to meet not only society's needs but also predict what competences professionals will need in the future,'' the dean says.

Data obtained through the HKO project of the Faculty of Philosophy shows that the employability of their students in the year after graduation is 75 percent. They believe this is the result of "the excellent professional and generic competences of their graduates".

"We're convinced at the Faculty of Philosophy that the study programs need to be further improved, so we have just started the study reform process and I'm sure the future employability of our students will be even better," says the university's dean.

The rector of the University of Rijeka, Snježana Prijić Samaržija, doesn't want to run away from the fact that Croatia's universities do hold a share of the responsibility for this issue but, again, she's convinced that Croatia's higher education institutions are't the key cause of the problem, but the underdeveloped labour market definitely is.

Rijeka University has eleven faculties and four departments. On their official page, they point out that they are a modern European university and a centre of excellence within the region and beyond, and that they are responsible for the social and economic development of the community. Samardžija claims that she doesn't want to relate the worrying data on the high rate of unemployed with higher education, but that "it should be borne in mind that higher education is a better job-finding guarantee, such as landing a permanent position,"

"Of course, it's possible to say that the employment rate would be higher if universities, by some automation, increased their quotas for the job-type deficit and reduced those profiles for which the employment bureaus take care of. In that sense, people often say Croatia's institutions and their enrollment policies aren't adapted to the labour market. However, the situation isn't quite that simple.

For example, the market seeks shipbuilding engineers, we have shipbuilding studies and a corresponding quota at the University of Rijeka, but there's a fall in interest for those studies. We can understand the students' fears about the situation with Croatia's shipyards, but the fact is that the need for this profession is still growing. Similarly, despite the lack of mathematics and physics teachers and the excellent studies we have, the interest doesn't match the employment opportunities,'' she explained.

The University of Rijeka decided to put seven studies ''into retirement'' this year, and isn't accepting students for them. Those are acting and media, dental hygiene, computer science in combination with professional studies of medical-lab diagnostics, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding, and electrical engineering.

On the other hand, there's a considerable level of interest in studies that don't guarantee quick and permanent employment at all, such as the arts, cultural studies, and psychology.

''Young people choose studies according to their personal interests, not just employment opportunities. They don't necessarily just want a permanent job, many of them are accustomed to gaining work experience in different institutions, at different places of work, and in different countries. More and more, they prefer to individually define the curriculum through courses and practical competences beyond their study program(s), which will make their expertise comparatively more special and desirable. In the midst of a sluggish and non-ethnological labour market, more and more students enjoy prolonged youthful relationships with their parents or rent apartments,'' says Snježana Prijić Samaržija.

"I don't want to run away from the responsibility of the university, we're constantly thinking about the jobs of the future, we're working on increasing the quota for the deficit professions and improving our students' competences to reduce the unemployment rate. However, time is needed to see the results of these measures because the higher education cycle lasts for at least five years. It should be understood that universities can't just simply increase quotas for occupations for which there's a labour market need because new employment is frozen,'' noted the Rector of the University of Rijeka.

As Croatia's paradoxical situation of having no work but plenty of jobseekers, yet plenty of work and no staff, it's hard to predict the outcome of education system reforms as the market and its needs can alter so rapidly. Will Croatian students simply continue to trickle away on the stream of a proverbial leaking tap out into Western Europe, leaving Croatia with the rather unenviable title of a country that educates its citizens for work abroad? It's likely such a scenario will continue at least for the foreseeable future. Whether or not Croatia will manage to make the necessary alterations to fix that aforementioned ''leaky tap'' in time remains to be seen.

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Click here for the original article by Mirela Lilek for Novac/Jutarnji

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.

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

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