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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