Croatia’s population has shrunk by nearly 10 percent in the last decade due to an exodus fuelled by a flagging economy, the latest census showed Friday.
The European Union member is home to just 3.8 million people against 4.2 million a decade ago, Croatia’s statistics bureau said.
“It’s an unbelievable disaster for Croatia,” demographer Stjepan Sterc told broadcaster N1 television.
Croatia’s rural central and eastern parts — already hard-hit by the 1990s independence war — suffered the largest drops.
The country has been beset by mass migration for years thanks to a largely static economy and lack of opportunity for young people.
A new wave of migration abroad was also spurred by the country’s ascension to the EU in 2013.
More than 250,000 Croatians have left since it joined the bloc, with many seeking a better life in Germany, Austria or Ireland, official figures showed.
According to projections by the United Nations, Croatia will likely have just 2.5 million people by the end of the century.
In December, the conservative government in the capital Zagreb announced a new scheme promising Croatian expatriates in the European Union up to 26,000 euros ($29,800) to return home and start a business.