The serious shortage of labor in Western Europe and the acquisition of free movement of workers after joining the EU are usually regarded as the two main causes of the rapid emigration growth in Croatia. However, they explain only one aspect of the migration, namely, the conditions under which people are drawn or pulled abroad. There is another aspect of population movement, in which people are pushed from the country in which they lived. The latter is not as well understood as the former. This paper explores the domestic factors affecting the outflow of Croatia’s labor force abroad.
First, the long-term economic stagnation of the country after the collapse of the communist regime led to a deterioration in people’s working conditions. The failure of the privatization of socially owned enterprises led to a heavy reduction in employment opportunities. As a result, people who could not find work or who could not make ends meet were forced to leave the country to seek work.
Second, the number of employees working in the public sector accounts for more than 40 percent of total employment in Croatia. Public-sector jobs are stable and pay far better than jobs in the private sector do. However, recruiting activity in the public sector is basically limited to personal connections, under the strong influence of political parties. This situation means that the majority of people, who have no such connections, find it more difficult to find jobs in the domestic labor market.
Third, a large number of emigrants think that employers in Western Europe offer jobs with greater opportunities than those in their country. These opportunities include the chance of wage rises as a result of their own efforts and the chance to exploit their job potential.
Fourth, despair or the loss of any hope of pursuing their life plan have prevailed in the minds of those who emigrate. The reason for this is that the national economic situation and standard of living have not improved at all for a long time, in spite of repeated promises from political leaders. This results in more and more people going abroad to find work. In one sense, emigration can be interpreted as the protest of a people betrayed by the words of politicians too many times.
The galloping emigration, particularly the drain of highly educated young personnel, means a great loss of precious human resources for Croatia, which may cause a serious decline in growth potential and hamper the sustainability of the social security system, such as the public pension system. If political leaders wish to put a brake on emigration growth, they must devise a policy to encourage people to stay and work in the country.
Fortunately, the Croatian economy is moving toward recovery thanks to a growth in exports and tourism. In addition, Croatia expects a grant for domestic infrastructure investment from the EU. Making good use of these advantageous conditions, the political leaders of this country need to formulate an effective policy for the development of the national economy that promotes an increase in attractive job opportunities for young people.