A demographer says that the immigrants should come from culturally similar, preferably Christian countries.
With barely a bit more than four million people, in order to compensate for the loss of population, Croatia will need to use policies to promote higher birth rates and bring in immigrants from other countries, reports Večernji List on September 12, 2017.
But who should come to Croatia and how many immigrants can the country receive? Is it possible to accept a large number of foreigners?
“Croatia cannot take half a million or one million immigrants without a change of Croatian identity. Ireland has demographic policies which determine that it can receive up to ten percent of immigrants, of which half must be of Irish origin. And we have not shown the desire to bring back the diaspora. We do not have any university studies that would attract children of emigrants, such as for example the study of the Mediterranean or the Adriatic coast, while Iceland and its coastal studies have attracted students to live in the middle of nowhere. We do not have enough workers in the tourism, construction and agriculture sectors, and we should receive 50,000 immigrants and send them to Slavonia, to rural and mountainous areas and the coast,” says demographer Stjepan Šterc.
He adds that Croatia needs selective immigration policies because, even if the birth rates were to increase, it would take 20 years for these children to reach working age. Asked who should come to Croatia, Šterc says the priority should be given to Ukrainians because the country has high emigration rates, as well as to residents from the former Yugoslavian republic and Croats living in the European Union.
As an underdeveloped country, we cannot expect people to come to Croatia without the framework of immigration and incentives. Šterc says that Europe has tried to bring in people from northern Africa and southwest Asia, but it turned out that they began to break up their societies. That is why today everyone is concerned about getting people who will more easily fit into the society, retaining their identity, but still accepting the way of life of the new country.
Demographer Anđelko Akrap points out that Croatia must first stop the emigration of young Croats and analyse its workforce to know what kind of workers it needs. The state also has to solve the widespread problem of employment with fixed-term contracts.
“Selective immigration policies which are being implemented by all developed countries are drafted in coordination between governments, trade unions and entrepreneurs. The labour market regulates where people will emigrate, and you have to think about the equitable distribution of the population. We cannot move in a significant number of workers for low-wage positions because their families would use the social benefits system. We have not even tried to return our emigrants or descendants of emigrants from South American countries that have a lower standard of living than us. Today, no country would officially announce they prefer such immigrants, but all immigration policies are oriented to countries from which integration is the easiest and brings the lowest costs,” says Akrap.
Dražen Živić, a demographer from Vukovar, points out that immigration policies are not only a demographic and economic problem but also a cultural and sociological one. “Behind every migration, there are not just economic consequences, but also others, because we see what is happening in the world with the problems of integration, assimilation, xenophobia. Migration has positive and adverse effects, and therefore it is important for immigrants to come from an environment similar to our cultural and civilizational context. This would be, above all, people from Christian countries. It does not mean that Christians are better people than non-Christians, but they are easier to integrate since they would be surrounded by individuals from the same cultural circle. The most important question is whether immigration policies should be focused on the return of Croat emigrants, or should we give up on them and turn towards the others? We need to lead a selective immigration policy because we are a tiny country. If 20,000 people were to come from a completely different cultural environment to Slavonia, that could change the composition of the population in the future and cause problems. This is not an easy subject to discuss in terms of human rights, but all countries strategically consider whom they would like to receive,” says Živić.
The regional development strategy is two years late, and the problem is, he adds, that Croatia is not concerned with keeping its current citizens, but is rather behaving like “we will get new ones.”
“But, where will they come from? Compared to Germany, Croatia is not attractive enough, and we have enough poor people as it is. People should be drawn to Slavonia with incentive measures. For example, anyone who lives in Vukovar or Županija should be freed from paying salary taxes for ten years. Also, some of the state institutions should be moved from Zagreb to rural parts of the country,” says Živić.
Translated from Večernji List.