Demographic Crisis: Croatian Emigration Topped Only by Malta

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Marina Klepo writes on the 16th of October, 2019, after Malta, Croatia has the highest rate of emigration in the whole of the European Union. 21.9 percent of the population to be more specific, which means that more than a fifth of the population born on Croatian territory live abroad.

This is followed by Portugal and Lithuania, countries in which 20 percent of the population born there have left. The latest World Bank report on “Migration and the brain drain in Europe and Central Asia” showcases this worrying data as it analyses the latest migration trends and offers countries recommendations on how to deal with them.

When asked what is the definition of an emigrant, and whether they include Croatian emigrants and Croatian citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Bank explains that the figures are based on UN data collected from the statistical offices of destination countries.

”They will depend, for example, on how Germany collects data on immigrants,” says Asli Demirguc-Kunt, World Bank chief economist for Europe and Central Asia. He added that most of the migrants’ countries of choice, such as the United States outside of Europe and the United Kingdom inside it, have administrations which want to know the country of origin of these migrants, and therefore they state the country of their birth.

This probably means that the data for Croatia also covers expelled Serbs since the early 1990s. Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, has seen as much as half of its population leave. Obviously, some of them immigrated to Croatia, which also has a high rate of immigrants relative to the total population, at 12.9 percent. In addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania (30 percent) recorded large emigration, more than a fifth of Macedonians and Montenegrins live abroad, while for Serbia, it is estimated that there are 14 percent of them living abroad.

Today, Europe the destination of every third immigrant in the world. Economic migration, the report says, has helped immigrant countries address the problem of labour shortages and also improve the living standards of migrants. However, at the same time, it also poses a major problem to the countries from which people leave, especially when it comes to brain drain. Data shows that highly educated persons make up as much as 55 percent of the total number of expatriates from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and around 40 percent of those from Latvia, and about 40 percent from Albania, Macedonia, and Romania.

Although the Croatian brain drain from is slightly less, standing at about 27 percent, it’s also worrying, especially when compared to other countries. In Hungary and the Czech Republic, the very highly educated make up less than 20 percent of the immigrant population.

One particularly significant impetus for population displacement is the lack of healthcare staff in many European countries. By 2030, according to the survey, Germany alone will need an additional 500,000 nurses, while demand for them in the United Kingdom will grow twice as fast as the population. As a reason, the World Bank recognises a lack of health education and demographic change combined. Specifically, the longer people live, the more common diseases such as cancer are, as are strokes and heart attacks, which of course usually require longer-term and more labour-intensive types of care. In addition to Bulgaria and Romania, Croatia is one of the three EU countries from which the most healthcare workers emigrate.

So far, no country has found a good political solution to this problem. The Croatiian Government is highly unlikely to be the first to do so.

In many countries, higher education is funded by public money. Therefore, the departure of the highly educated population represents a significant fiscal burden. To solve this problem, the political option that governments are forced to seek is asking for that money back from the migrants. The argument is that such a policy would increase the equality of those who leave and those who remain.

However, the World Bank states that such coercion is difficult to enforce, especially after expatriates leave the territory of a country. Moreover, if strong coercion and legal measures are imposed, it can lead to the termination of the expatriate’s relationship with the country entirely and jeopardise the benefits of all of them and for everyone involved.

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