Croatian Emigration Rate Second Highest in European Union

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

As Novac/Kristina Turcin writes, in the period from 2015 to 2019, the population of Croatia, according to official Eurostat data, decreased by 4.26 inhabitants per 1,000 citizens only due to the concerning Croatian emigration rate, which is the second largest decline in population through migration in the European Union: only Lithuania, which is worse, lost 5.04 inhabitants for every 1000 inhabitants in the same period.

This worrisome data unequivocally indicates that the economic prosperity of one country within the EU has a key impact on the decisions of residents to leave one country or move to another. For this reason, the territory of the European Union is one of the most attractive for immigrants from all over the world, but within the Union itself, despite all efforts, the differences between nations and their people are still vast and people from poorer countries continue to migrate with very little barriers placed in front of them to richer ones.

Economic crisis

Such a trend was particularly present in post-socialist countries in the first years after joining the EU, particularly in the early 2000s. In the last observed five-year period, only five EU countries had a negative migration rate, ie the number of emigrants was higher than the number of immigrants. These are Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Croatia and Lithuania. All other member states had a higher number of immigrants than the number of emigrants, and at the top of the scale are of course the countries with the best economic indicators, such as Luxembourg, whose net migration rate was 17, which means that for every 1,000 citizens it had 17 more immigrants than it did emigrants.

That very same pattern, which was shown by the calculations of Dr. Ivan Cipin and Dr. Petra Medjimurec from the Department of Demography at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, is present within Croatia and in the Croatian emigration rate: the correlation between economic prosperity, measured through GDP per capita, and net migration rates for each county is indisputable, it was, as stated, also particularly strong in the first years after Croatia’s initial accession to the EU in the summer of 2013.

”There’s no doubt that the economic development of a particular area is one of the most important, if not the most important, factor of emigration,” explained Dr. Cipin.

According to the analysis they made, in the years of the strongest economic crisis in Croatia, the stronger the Croatian emigration rate grew. As expected, this primarily involved those from poorer counties. For example, back in 2012, the most negative net migration rate was in Pozega-Slavonia County, which, in that year, lost 11 inhabitants per 1,000 inhabitants exclusively due to emigration, either abroad or to other Croatian counties. At the same time, it was one of the three counties with the lowest GDP per capita – the GDP of that county was, for comparison, more than three times lower than the GDP of the City of Zagreb. That year, however, the six (richest) counties had a positive net migration rate, ie the number of immigrants was higher than the number of emigrants.

However, the explosion of emigration started in 2013 – the year in which Croatia finally joined the European Union, and peaked in 2017 when, for example, the net migration rate for Vukovar-Srijem County, whose GDP per capita was also among the lowest, was 35, and only two counties, Istria and the City of Zagreb, had a positive rate. Virovitica-Podravina and Pozega-Slavonia counties, which a year earlier had the lowest GDP per capita, had net migration rates of -20 and -25, respectively.

Regional inequalities

”When the borders opened up to Croatia following July 2013’s accession to the EU, the differences in economic development reached special levels in terms of migration statistics. Slavonia and the area around Sisak faced the worst situation. These parts of the country, ie the surplus of emigration, have been a big issue for Croatia for some time now, which, due to the departure of the younger and more active part of the population, leads to a further reduction of GDP per capita and inequalities therefore only increase. I’m afraid that without targeted EU intervention, it will no longer be possible to reverse the trend: we have counties where, partly due to emigration, the average age of the general population is already approaching 50, and they still have negative net migration, which is an unpromising indicator,” explained Dr. Cipin.

Combating poverty and regional disparities is one of the main goals of the European Union, but the set goal of reducing the number of people at risk of poverty by 20 million by 2020 has unfortunately not been achieved. On the contrary, inequalities between and within member states have only further increased, and the concerning Croatian emigration rate is just one aspect which speaks volumes about it.

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