In the last 30 years, Croatia has been faced with severe depopulation, and in the first decades of the 21st century, the country has recorded unprecedentedly low annual number of births and birth rates. Croatian population reached a peak in 1991, and after that it has been decreasing continuously. Natural decrease was first recorded in 1991 (excluding the war periods) and it has continued ever since (with the exception of 1996 and 1997, when the small-scale post-war baby boom was recorded). This clearly indicates that natural decrease has had a significant impact on the population change throughout the whole period. According to the official data, net migration, as the second significant component of population change, has been positive from early 1990s until 2009. In contrast with that, many researches and calculations show that it was actually negative. From 2009 onwards, net migration has been negative, particularly after the Croatian accession to the EU in 2013.
The paper discusses the population change in Croatia from 1991 to 2021, and it focuses on the natural population change and net migration in order to determine which component had more prominent role in depopulation in each of the three intercensal periods. The paper will also highlight the recent effect of COVID-19 epidemic on mortality in Croatia. The analyses will rely on the official statistical data provided by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics and Croatian Institute of Public Health. However, due to changes in census methodologies and reliability issues related to registering international migration, it is necessary to use other methods of calculating the net migration. Besides the causes, the paper also discusses the consequences of demographic decline in Croatia.
Keywords: depopulation|Croatia|natural decrease|emigration|population decline