Classic North-South Divide in EU Highlights Croatia’s ”Flaws”

Lauren Simmonds

As Jutarnji/Frenki Lausic writes on the 11th of August, 2019, the enormous cultural and economic differences between the north and south of Europe, northern individualism and distance, and the classic Mediterranean familiarity and communitarianism are unlikely to ever be completely overcome. Croatia’s ”flaws” are highlighted when looking at the EU as a whole.

Nevertheless, one must look into the cultural and economic consequences of the functioning of these social ideal types, including the Croatian one. On Monday, August the 12th, we mark International Youth Day, and this is certainly an occasion to once again question the impact of European societies on young people.

It has been known for many years that family ties in the south of Europe are much more important in everyday life than they are Northern Europe, that young people tend to live with their parents longer. In fact, many critics of the Mediterranean lifestyle believe that this type of family, which they consider to be almost tribal, relationship hinders the development of individualism and the idea of taking individual responsibility, while “Mediterraneanists” resent Northern Europe’s typical way of ”alienation and emotional coldness”.

It is likely that new data from Croatia’s Central Bureau of Statistics, which says that 73.2 percent of Croats between the ages of 18-34 lived with their parents in 2017, which is also the highest share in the European Union, would be a good cause for such controversy.

Specifically, according to 2017’s figures, almost half of the EU population in the age group of 18-34 lived with their parents, while in Finland only 18.7 percent of the population in the same age group lived with their parents.

This data is linked to another negative indicator – Croats leave the parental household the latest, and according to the latest available data for 2018, when they decide to move, on average, they are around 31.8 years old. Slovaks (30.9 years), Maltese (30.7 years) and Italians (30.1 years) are also over 30 years old, while the European average in 2018 was 26.0 years.

The youngest were the Swedes, who on average left the parental household at 18.5 years of age, followed by the inhabitants of Luxembourg (20.1 years) and Denmark (21.1 years).

Therefore, the Croats are the champions of the Mediterranean way of life, but the big question is how much, at least in the last ten years, is this a result of cultural patterns of behaviour and how much more of it is to so with a harsh six-year recession. It could be expected that, due to lack of work and good living wages, young people will continue to stay on living with their families for longer. If that’s the case, then it could be seen that these statistics will move in the near future, as more and more jobs become available, and hopefully wages will increase, too. Not to mention the quality of the services provided by the dreaded state institutions.

The fact that the recession and economic slowdown in the EU has left an impact on the entire bloc’s young people, it’s more than enough to state that just under half of working-age people are employed in the EU. The employment rate of young people in the EU in 2018 stood at 49.8 percent, an increase compared to 2013, when it was the lowest in the last nine years (45.9 percent).

In Croatia, the employment rate in 2018 stood at 41.3 percent (8.5 percentage points less than the EU average), an increase of 9.7 percentage points compared to the record low in 2013 (when the rate was 31.6 percent). The highest youth employment rate is in the Netherlands (70.9 percent) and the lowest is down in Greece (30 percent). Therefore, along with the economic divisions, we can clearly see the north/south divisions in youth employment here, too.

This is also evident in the employment statistics of recent graduates. Specifically, this category refers to persons in the age group of 20-34 who are not in education or training and have completed their education in the last three years. In 2018, the EU employment rate for recent graduates was 81.6 percent. It was highest in Malta (94.8) and lowest in Greece (55.3).

When it comes to the Croats, the employment rate of recent graduates in 2018 was 71.2 percent, down ten percentage points from the EU average. More discouraging yet, almost a third of them have not found a job even though they have completed their education recently, more specifically within the last three years.

Another indicator is worrying. The share of young people who are not employed, educated or trained in Croatia was 16.2 percent in 2018, slightly above the EU average (14.1 percent). Italy has the highest share, the largest within the EU, with a fifth of young people (24.8 percent) not working, studying or training, while their share is the lowest in the Netherlands (6.8 percent).

Finally, the CBS provided another piece of information that can be viewed in two or three ways: as a consequence of economic impoverishment, demographic disadvantage, or as evidence of the decline of “individualism” in Croatia. Specifically, when comparing data for 2017 and 2010, the number of young drivers in the 19-24 age group is declining. In the mentioned period there were as many as 28.4 thousand fewer drivers in this age group – in 2010 there were 207.349, and in 2017, there were only 178.989 of them.

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