Demographer: Main message of 2021 census is 10% population decrease

NEWS 25.09.2022 13:49
Source: Pexels

The most important message of the 2021 population census results for experts is the continued population decrease, of nearly 10%, and the higher average age, which makes Croatia among the oldest countries in Europe and the world.

Nothing of the negative processes is news to demographers, demographer Sanja Klempic Bogadi of the Zagreb Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies told Hina on Sunday.

In the past decade, Croatia’s population fell by over 400,000, or nearly 10%, as a result of more deaths than births and more emigrants than immigrants, she said, adding that demographers had expected the population decrease to continue.

One in five Croatian inhabitants is 65 or older, which is a lot, and given the increasingly small number of young people and the increasingly small working population, this is a big challenge, affecting healthcare, the pension system and social welfare, she said.

Given the ageing population and lack of success in bringing back Croatian emigrants, the state will have to continue to rely on foreign labour to maintain economic growth, she added.

The economically least developed counties recorded the biggest population decreases. Most of the economy is concentrated in Zagreb and on the coast. The City of Zagreb has the highest GDP, while Slavonia’s Virovitica-Podravina, Brod-Posavina, Požega-Slavonia and Vukovar-Srijem counties are the least developed.

That confirms the impact of state policies on emigration, Klempic Bogadi said, adding that a 2018 Croatian Employers Association survey on persons who emigrated since Croatia joined the EU in 2013 confirmed that.

The survey showed that over 50% of respondents said they left because of a disorganised and poorly-governed state, lack of prospects, hiring based on political affiliation, corruption and crime, she said.

Asked why, unlike experts, politicians were mostly interested in the census results on ethnicity and religious affiliation, she said those data, alongside the population size, drew the most attention following every census.

The 2021 census shows the number of members of national minorities dropped by over 25%. All of the largest national minorities – Serbs, Bosniaks, Italians, Hungarians, Albanians, Slovenians and the Czech – recorded big declines, except Roma, she said, adding that the reasons were emigration, natural depopulation, assimilation and ethnomimicry.

She said a decrease in the number of persons who declared themselves as believers, including Catholics, had been expected, but not to such an extent, the reasons being natural depopulation, intensive emigration and surveys showing a slow decrease in religiousness in Croatia.

Regarding the fact that 87.3% of persons answered the question about their religious affiliation as belonging to the Catholic Church, she said this was the first census in which persons were asked both about faith and religious affiliation, and that some were evidently confused.

Asked what demographers would recommend to the government, Klempic Bogadi said they had been warning about the seriousness of the demographic situation for years.

It’s as if politicians don’t or don’t want to understand that many of their decisions affect processes which impact Croatia’s demographic situation, she said.

The state is half-functional in many segments, corruption has become almost normal, political hiring and such things are certainly not the prerequisites that will make Croatia a desirable place to live and improve demographic trends, she added.


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