Croatia has experienced a demographic catastrophe but, although the Croatian emigration wave will continue, the intensity of emigration is already becoming weaker. Far more people than previously thought have left the country since it has entered the EU, and the average age of new Croatian emigrants is considerably lower than in previous waves, according to the latest analysis published by the Institute for Public Finances, reports Jutarnji List on December 18, 2018.
A group of experts – Ivana Draženović, Marina Kunovac and Dominik Pripužić – analysed and compared Croatian and foreign data on the latest Croatian emigration wave, which started after Croatia become a member of the EU, and concluded that the real number of emigrants could be 2.6 times higher than the official statistics.
While official Croatian statistics for the period from 2013 to 2016 reports 102,000 emigrants, foreign sources say that the number of emigrants was significantly higher and reached 230,000 Croats. Majority of Croats moved to Germany, more than 71 per cent, as well as to Austria and Ireland, a country which practically did not even appear on the list of countries to which Croatians were moving until just a few years ago.
Apart from freedom of movement within the EU, the main reasons for emigration are the perception of emigrants about better living conditions in other EU member states, as well as a higher degree of economic development.
Although Croatia is not the only one among members of the European Union in having high emigration rates, it is worrying that many say they will never return and have moved abroad with their families. Less developed parts of the country are being emptied, while emigration from the more developed parts of Croatia is less pronounced.
Compared to the previous waves of emigration, the average age of new Croatian emigrants has decreased considerably. While in the period from 2001 to 2013, the average Croatian emigrant was 41.5 years old, in 2016 the average age was 33.6, according to the analysis.
“The phenomenon of emigration is likely to have a strong impact on the Croatian economy in the medium term,” warned the authors of the study.
Nonetheless, Ivan Čipin, a demographer from the Zagreb School of Economics, believes the picture is not so bleak. He claims that the main emigration wave from Croatia is already behind us. People will still move from the country, but it will not be as intensive as the previous years, said Čipin, who does not expect emigration from Croatia to accelerate in the upcoming period, assuming no major economic shocks. However, he warned that the opening of the Austrian labour market for Croatian citizens in 2020 could absorb another part of the Croatian labour force.
One of the reasons why emigration should not accelerate over the next few years is the lack of workers in Croatia, which is why wages are increasing. Moreover, the entire sectors of the Croatian economy cannot find enough workers and are increasingly dependent on foreign workers, despite the number of nearly 148,000 unemployed persons registered at the Croatian Employment Service.
No wonder that the Ministry of Labour and Pension System foresees bringing in more than 63,000 workers from abroad next year. That is the record number of foreign workers, which is higher than, for example, the total population of Pula.
The planned import of foreign workers has met with the resistance from the trade unions. “We are not xenophobes, but we do not see the logic that so many citizens are leaving Croatia in search of a better life, while we import the workforce from abroad. The government even wants to import workers for jobs which can be done by unemployed people from Croatia,” said Krešimir Sever, president of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions (NHS).
On the other hand, employers warn that without foreign workers they will not be able to develop their business further. In addition to the tourism and hospitality industry, the lack of workers can be felt in the construction industry as well as in many other sectors. Croatia is thus faced with a twofold challenge: on the one hand, its workers are moving to other countries, mostly to more developed EU member states, while on the other hand, workers have to be imported from abroad.
More news on the Croatian emigration wave can be found in our Politics section.
Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Adriano Milovan).