If Croatia does not know how to increase birth rates, then we have a serious problem. That was a comment by an employee in one of the municipalities which recorded twice as many birth than deaths, while Croatia as a whole loses up to 12,000 inhabitants a year.
He added that, as a father of three children, he and his wife had not decided to have children because they would receive higher salaries or buy a bigger apartment. “But, if we were not sure that we would both have jobs, or that children would have a place in kindergarten, perhaps I wouldn’t be here to tell you that I possibly want a fourth child before my 40th birthday”, explained the employee. Regardless of all the differences among the municipalities with highest birth rates, the “secrets” are the same: employment opportunities, kindergartens and schools for children, proximity to larger cities where children can continue their education after primary school, good infrastructure, and lower prices of apartments and houses.
Among the five municipalities with highest birth rates is Viškovo, where last year 189 children were born while 98 inhabitants died. Its population increased by 0.56 percent. Although at first glance it might not seem a lot, the same percentage for whole of Croatia would mean that the number of its inhabitants would increase annually by about 24,000. Actually, Croatia last year had a population decrease and lost more than 11,000 people.
Mayor Sanja Udović said Viškovo was attractive to developers during the construction expansion, so now favourable prices of residential buildings mean it has become attractive to young people and young families as well.
“Rather than in Rijeka or Opatija, young families bought their homes here because the prices were more favourable. Now when they have children, we subsidize the cost of kindergarten, so they pay just 400 kuna. Children in elementary school are eligible for free textbooks, we give scholarships to high school and university students”, said Udović. However, she admits that it is necessary to strengthen the infrastructure, so in the future they will have to carefully weigh whether to allow construction of new residential buildings. Importantly, Viškovo does not have a municipality tax on wages.
The best birth rate, 2.42 children per deceased inhabitant, was recorded in Podstrana near Split. Mayor Mladen Bartulović explains that they are now reaping the benefits of immigration in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. “This year, in the first form there will be 125 children”, said Bartulović, adding that the generations whose parents moved there have now themselves become parents.
“We are situated at a very attractive location. It is not rare for young people from Split to decide to sell their apartments and build a house in our municipality. Recently, I heard of a lot of sailors who are preparing to start a family and settle down here”, explained Bartulović. Also, Podstrana is becoming a tourist centre as well. The conclusion is clear –tourists bring jobs and salaries, and then it is easier to think about having children.
Municipal budget subsidizes with 900 kuna each child who goes to one of six private kindergartens, while children with special needs do not pay anything. Full-time university students receive scholarships, while high school students have paid commute to school. Currently, a sports centre is being built so that children can engage in as many sports as possible.
“Most people here have good salaries. We do have some people with problems, but it is easier to help if municipality is in a good financial shape. It’s nice to be a mayor of municipality like this”, said Bartulović. He added that people in Croatia should have more optimism and hope.
Source: Novi List