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MON, 09 APR 2001 22:54:54 GMT

Census in Croatia

AIM Zagreb, March 27, 2001

According to demography experts, a census that will be taken in Croatia from April 1 to April 15, will determine that population has decreased by about 200,000 since the last one 10 years ago. Namely, forecasts by the Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences say that in the 1991-1998 period, 130,000 people moved out of the country and that in the same period the number of deaths surpassed the number of births by about 45,000.

"Research has shown that for many years the number of young people has been decreasing, which in economic terms means that the country's labor and education potential is dropping, and that we are becoming less competitive in international terms. We are becoming a less vital and dynamic nation. We will be less and less creative, and will have to invest more energy in mere survival," says demography expert Dr. Alica Werthmeier Baletic, a member of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences.

According to the 1991 census, Croatia had 4,784,265 residents, including those temporarily working abroad. Without them, the country had 4,499,049 people. The April census, following recommendations issued by the United Nations and international statistics organizations, will not list people who have been absent from Croatia for over one year.

"Since the 1971 census, the Croatian population has split into those living in Croatia and those living abroad, and even those born at home and those born in a foreign country. Between 1971 and 1999, some 110,000 children born abroad were registered in Croatia, and research shows that they haven't returned to Croatia," says Dr. Andjelko Akrap from the Demography Department of the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. According to his studies, together with Hungary, Croatia is by far last in Europe in regard to relative population increase in the 1950-2000 period.

"War, the economic crisis, unemployment and traditional emigration have contributed much to yet another emigration wave. I think there are no economic or demographic conditions for the revitalization of rural areas as long as there is a lack of infrastructure. No inventive territorial organization, for instance, can revive Lika-Senj County. Economic development plays a key role," believes Dr. Akrap. His study entitled, Population Trends in Croatia between the 1991 Census and 1998, shows that in 1998, Croatia had 4,224,000 permanent residents. In the same period about 130,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina arrived, in addition to some 30,000 from Vojvodina, whereas between 120,000 and 130,000 young, educated people left the country. Furthermore, some 280,000 Croatian citizens of Serb origin left as well, and today live in Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina or Republika Srpska to be more accurate.

"There is no doubt that data on the number of Serbs in the entire population will dramatically differ from that in 1991," says Dr. Milorad Pupovac, president of the Serb National Council, and adds: "This data will show dramatic changes both for the Serbs and Croatia, but their degree will depend on the success of the process of listing people living outside Croatia in the following several days, when the census will end. In 1991, Serbs accounted for 12 percent of Croatia's population. This year this percentage will be much lower: many people are in exile, many have moved out, and the assimilation process also had its effects. Many people will have difficulty stating their nationality and might avoid it out of fear."

Pupovac stresses that the Serb National Council is doing everything to provide for a favorable atmosphere during the census: it should be such that people have no fear to state their ethnic and religious background, which is also necessary for an objective picture on all demographic trends and the future status of ethnic minorities in Croatia. The party president is also in constant touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and together with them with Croatian diplomatic missions in Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that as many Serb refugees from Croatia as possible are registered.

"The demographic picture of Croatia is devastating. Politics must list our priorities, and the state should consult demography experts in planning development. If this is not done, Croatia's population will continue to diminish, the birth rate will continue to fall, the population will be older and emigration will continue," predicts Dr. Alica Werthmeimer Baletic. Her bleak forecasts say that in 2050, only 13 percent of the population will be children up to 14 years of age, and that the most active segment of the population (between 25 and 64 years of age) will drop from the current 66 percent to 54 percent, whereas the number of people above 65 years will double. All this could easily become reality if the state fails to immediately apply measures aimed at boosting population growth and the return of the children of expatriates.

Now, for a glance at the census itself, that is, its technical details: the census form has 64 questions. The first three pertain to the head of the family, place of residence and address; the next 42 inquiries regard the person interviewed, and the 19 remaining questions pertain to housing and the household. A total of 27,000 people will be engaged in carrying out the census, of whom 22,000 will be working in the field. The latter were the reason for a recent scandal, without which, it seems, no event in this country can pass. It was discovered that many state and ruling parties officials wanted their children to have the job so that they could earn several thousand kuna during the two-week registration process. This wouldn't have been a problem had it not been for the fact that a whole army of unemployed exists in Croatia, who are not lucky enough to have parents working in high places. This example reflects the degree of social sensitivity of the Racan cabinet and the six-headed ruling coalition.

Ivica Djikic

(AIM)