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Youth in Croatia

Spajić-Vrkaš, Vedrana; Ilišin, Vlasta
Youth in Croatia. Zagreb: Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship, 2005 (monografija)

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Youth in Croatia

Spajić-Vrkaš, Vedrana ; Ilišin, Vlasta

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija knjige
Autorske knjige, monografija, znanstvena

Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship





Ključne riječi
Youth; Croatia; transition; behavior; problems

The results of the research described above were obtained on a representative sample of Croatian youth from 15-24 years of age in the second half of 2002. The research was carried on in the context of a regional research project on youth under the auspices of the PRONI institute from Sweden. The main objective of the project was to provide empirical data on life, needs, attitudes and aspirations of young people as a means of assisting the process of youth policy review. The process was initiated by the Council of Europe with a view to strengthen youth participation in democratic changes of the countries in the region. This report is the most recent one in a long and well-established tradition of studying youth issues in Croatia. Therefore, it often includes comments and references to earlier research findings for the purpose of determining the changes in youth trends, as well as for the purpose of validity testing of our data. On the other side, the dana presented in this report may, together with earlier studies, be used as a reference point in the process of reviewing the National Programme of Action for Youth, as well as in developing a comprehensive, efficient and youth-centred national youth policy. The core of the findings is probably that the criteria for determining the upper age-level of youth period should be reviewed and extended to include those who are 30 years of age. The fact that more and more young people remain longer in education, that they decide to marry and have children later in their life, that they consider changing their job and probably, if possible, enrol in re-training programmes for that purpose, as well as that they desire to reach full independence by relying on their own abilities and endeavour, speaks in favour of the need to redesign our traditional approaches to youth upper age-limits. Other findings that help us understand some important dimensions and trends of contemporary life of Croatian youth are summarised below: • The most basic socio-demographic data demonstrate that very few young people from our research who are 24 and below are married and few think of having children before the age of 25. About half of them live in a two-child nuclear family in a house/apartment of their own that, averagely, comprises more than two rooms. Very few have an opportunity to live in an apartment of their own, although four fifths express desire to live separately. The aspiration towards such independence is mainly motivated by socio-economic and maturity factors: it is a prominent feature of young people who are university students, whose fathers have more education, and who are over 20. Since the chances of having their own apartment in a reasonable period of time are rather minimal, not only due to the difficulties in finding a job but due to extremely high prices in the housing sector, such prolonged co-habitation and dependency on parents and/or relatives is a frequent cause of young people’ s frustrations and is probably related to, together with other factors such as poverty and limited capacity of pre-school child-care institutions, a constant decrease in the average number of children per family. • On average, young people are satisfied with their present life and expect no change in the future. Despite a high unemployment rate especially among them, approximately three quarters assess their own present and future life, the life of their closest friends and their peers in Western Europe as good or excellent. Their optimism is somewhat even higher than it was found in the end of 1990s. When asked to imagine their life in 10 years ahaed majority see it as a success, either in general terms or in specific terms of their professional advancement or family happiness. Dissatisfaction with present life grows with age and with opportunities to enter the world of work and become fully independent, since the young between 20-24 years of age, both employed and unemployed are more inclined to perceive their present life as unsatisfactory. Interestingly enough, the age does not have influence on the assessment of future, which means, in the context of this research, that young people in general, irrespective of age, equally believe that future brings better opportunities. • In reference to their professional and educational aspirations, almost two thirds of the young want to continue education, while one fourth of them think of finding a job. The differences are mainly determined by residential, social, and age factors. Thus, a primary aspiration of pupils and university students, as well as of those who live in Zagreb or in families of higher socio-economic status, is to continue their education. Contrary to them, rural young people, those who live in low-income families, as well as those who are over 20 are more inclined to seek for a job or to continuing the job they currently hold. • Over two fifths of young people plan to leave their present place of residence so as to be able to meet their professional and educational aspirations. Almost half of this group prefer to move somewhere inside the country, most often to a bigger city which is perceived as the place that offers better opportunities for career and social positioning, while other half think of going abroad. The percentage of the young planning to leave the country for good rose from 11% in 1986 and 18% in 1999 to 19% in 2002. Their migratory plans are connected to their residential status, i.e. to the conditions in the place or region where the young actually live. Young people from Zagreb are less willing to go somewhere else ; rural youth and youth from Eastern Croatia wish to migrate to another place inside Croatia more than any other group, while all groups (except youth from Middle and Northern Croatia who want that somewhat more than others) equally (do not) want to settle abroad. • Data on a desired place for living are quite similar to those on migratory plans. The number of youth preferring to remain in their present place of residence and the number of those having no migratory plans are almost identical. When compared to earlier studies, we see an increase in the number of young people preferring to live in large cities. In addition, almost one quarter express their preference for living abroad, majority of which opt for a Western European country. The fact that almost one fifth of all has plans and almost one fourth prefer to live abroad indicate the existence of two closely related but, nevertheless, separate dimensions of youth migratory thinking. While the preference for other counties may mean only an inclination, having plans on migrating abroad most certainly includes active search for such a possibility. In light of our findings it means that at least one fifth of Croatian youth not only dream of leaving the country but actually make plans how to make it a reality. • Employed youth is far from being satisfied with their jobs. Every second confirms his or her disappointment. Approximately one fifth of both them and those that are still in the process of education desire jobs in the service or business sector ; little less in number think of entering more creative and/or dynamic professions or professions related to education, health care and social services. This means that their professional aspirations are somehow higher that those of their parents, majority of whom have secondary school completed and are mainly employed as industrial, service and shop workers or clerks. Nevertheless, if their choices are compared to the structure of the employed force in Croatia and if we add to it a rapidly changing labour market in all transitional countries, their professional preferences seem rather realistic. This is probably why almost half of the young hold that their chances for getting a preferred job are high or very high. The data also confirm that their estimations are related to age and socio-professional status since pessimism increases with age (except for the university students) and is tightly linked to unemployment status. In any case, optimism prevails among the young and it, as well, may be linked to their strong motivation to succeed in life by relying on their own abilities despite unfavourable social and economic context in which they live. • It is also possible, at least partly, that self-assurance of young people comes from positive educational experience. Over half of the young state they feel happy and satisfied when thinking of their schools or universities. However, it is not clear whether their satisfaction should be understood in terms of acquiring subject-matter knowledge and skills or in terms of developing certain personal qualities through participating in school life. Earlier studies on youth have proven that the young have complex relations towards education which are the outcomes of both institutional tasks and personal expectations. Moreover, our results document that feelings about school are correlated with sex and socio-professional status.Girls and university students, in general, are more satisfied with their education, while the unemployed are among the least satisfied. It is also possible that positive feelings about education also relate to school grades. Earlier studies have shown that female pupils receive somewhat better average scores than their male schoolmates, which may explain why girls have more positive feelings about school than boys. • On the other hand, it is clear that school is by no means a source of information about the events in the country and the world for young people since a great majority of them actually receive news through ordinary media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines). Moreover, Internet has become an important source of information about the country and the world for approximately one fifth and over one fourth of them, respectively. This shift has to do with the fact that over two thirds of the young from our study are computer users and that more than half of them already have computer at home. It is, therefore, obvious that new information and communication technologies are becoming part and parcel of young people’ s daily life what needs to be taken into account when policies and programmes of action for promoting their wellbeing are designed, especially in reference to underprivileged youth. Namely, our research confirms that the use of computer correlates with residence (urban environment), family background (parents with higher education and higher socio-economic status), age, and education factors (younger population and students). • Nevertheless, young people are not enslaved by new informationcommunication technologies. Most of them spend their free time associating with friends, engaging in sport activities, going to disco-clubs, watching TV or performing outdoor activities, while far less enjoy music, reading books or art exhibitions. In addition, many young people have no daily obligations, except in relation to school and spend their free time idling or sleeping. This means that the majority of youth either do nothing or engage almost solely in the socalled passive and/or receptive activities for self-entertainment. Despite that fact, almost three fourths of them claim they are more or less satisfied with how they spend their free time what brings us to the conclusion that the main problem is not the quality of their free time activities but their lack of awareness that the quality itself is being at stake. However, it should be pointed out that their opinions are related to age and socio-professional status. Young people who belong to an upper age-cohort and who are unemployed exhibit far more dissatisfaction with their free time than the youngest. Overpronounced dissatisfaction among the unemployed seems to be an indicator of an overall discontent with one’ s own life. For the unemployed, free time becomes a burden not only because they cannot perceive it in terms of an offduty activity but because they can not afford it financially. • In reference to the use of psychoactive substances, it seems that tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are the most widespread types of risk behaviour among the youth. Approximately one third of them smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol daily or weekly ; three fifths are non-smokers and one fifth never drink alcohol. Smoking increases with age and employment. Alcohol, on the other hand, is solely related to gender in a way that young women drink less than their male peers. Such trend may be the sign of a subtle male initiation rite de passage that has outlived its traditional context. Since the data on smoking are more favourable than those from earlier research it may be presumed that an anti-smoking media campaign, which has been going on rather aggressively throughout the country, has brought positive effect, whereas non-existence of similar anti-alcohol campaign may be the sign of a relatively high level of a social tolerance for alcohol consumption. As far as drug are concerned, Croatian youth is more inclined to the so-called 'soft' drugs. Over one third of the young have tried or used twice or more only marijuana ; hashish and ecstasy is mentioned by less than one tenth of them, whereas other 'hard' drugs have been only tried or are consumed by 1-3% of them. The consumption of marijuana is associated with a recognizable youth group, what confirms earlier studies. A group of highest risk is made of young people between 20 and 24, male, university students, the residents of Zagreb, Istria, Croatian Littoral and Dalmatia, and whose fathers have higher education level. • A great majority of young people tend to see themselves in rather positive terms: they are self-assured, think they have a good number of personal qualities ; believe in their capabilities when compared to other people and have no doubts that most people they know like them. This may be related to feeling of security they experience in the context of their immediate environment since a great majority of the young claim that they can almost always get warmth, care and support from their parents and support from their friends. On the other hand, only every second of them feel the same about their teachers. It seems that most Croatian families are characterised by an exercise of indirect and flexible control over their children in the course of their growing up. In over half of the cases parents or relatives hardly ever determine rules for their children’ s behaviour although they do control the choice of their friends, as well as their evening outdoor activities. Moreover, young people claim that their parents are especially keen of their school progress since they almost regularly keep records on their children school situation. • When asked about the most serious problems of their generation, the majority of young people in Croatia mention socially unacceptable behaviour, such as drug abuse, alcohol consumption and violence, unemployment, low standard of living, the lack of life chances and mass migration of young experts abroad. Since unemployment was repeatedly displayed as the major problem of young generation in earlier studies, their present preoccupation with socially unacceptable behaviour may be related either to the sample structure (majority of them are students) or to a general social climate which is, due to predominance of media campaigns mainly geared against smoking and drug abuse (but not against alcohol consumption, except for safe driving), inducing an over-sensitisation to behavioural issues causing, on the other side, the lack of awareness of existentially important issues of young people that are of an utmost importance for their independence and self-satisfaction. • Young people are inclined to attribute responsibility for solving these problems primarily to themselves, their parents and public authorities, i.e. firstly to those actors that function at the private level (personal and parents’ responsibility), than to public sector (government, education system) and, finally, to the civil society (nongovernmental organizations, youth associations and religious institutions). This means that youth principally count on their personal strength and family support, as well as that they have explicit expectations of state institutions, whereas they think of receiving the assistance from the civil sector only exceptionally. Notwithstanding, since half of the young studied have failed to mention personal responsibility, it clearly demonstrates that both strong sense of self-responsibility and its avoidance stand side by side as two features of Croatian youth. • Among the measures that Croatian youth see as the most efficient for solving their problems two are underlined: equal education and career opportunities, on the one hand, and strict punishment of drug dealers and restrictions on alcohol selling, on the other hand. Since the majority of youth consider socially unacceptable behaviour, including drug-addiction, to be the gravest problem of their generation, it is understandable that they see the way out in strict punishing of drug dealers, (rather than consumers), what is still inadequately determined by Croatian law. Other most frequently mentioned measure has to do with the youth quest for developing society of equal chances which is in line with their perception of unemployment as the second most frequently mentioned youth problem in Croatia. Although lesser in number, the young refer to their under-representation and require their participation in decision-making to be ensured at all levels. They also require better adapting of secondary and higher education to the needs of contemporary life, as well as better quality of education, in general ; some speak in favour of establishing a ministry for youth affairs, developing national strategy for promoting youth well-being, setting up of funds for youth initiatives, better legal regulations of the places of youth entertainment, i.e., the issues majority of which have already been integrated into the recently adopted National Programme of Action for Youth that is seen as an initial step in developing a national youth policy. • The values that the majority of young people hold personally important or very important are healthy environment, peace in the world, gender equality, and rights and freedoms of the individual. Second group of the most personally preferable values encompasses solidarity among people, social justice, economic security, respect for differences, rule of law, inalienability of property, civil society, free market, freedom of the media, protection of minorities, religion and democratic system. The bottom of the scale is occupied by social power, national sentiment, European integration, and high economic standard. The review of their preferences demonstrates a relatively respectable level of democratic potential of young people in Croatia. They are more oriented towards comfortable life based on key principles of democracy and civil society, which is in correspondence with earlier research that have documented the shift to a more individualistic value system, including youth’ s preference for independence and their focus on self-realisation and material security. However, their relative devaluation of the importance of European integration may be, on the one hand, the sign of either their dissatisfaction with, or their criticism of the way new European order has been established, partly due to the fact that Croatia has been somehow unjustly left behind. On the other hand it may be the consequence of their perceiving the integration merely in terms of a political objective of which very little they experience in everyday life. This is not to say that they devaluate the importance of European integration for Croatia as such. It would be more accurate to say that Croatian young people are becoming more and more pragmatic in their social positioning of which many think not only in the context of Croatia but in the context of Europe and the world. Having in mind a long tradition of Croatian youth emigration to Europe and the fact that almost 20% of contemporary youth plan to leave the country for good (mostly for a European country), their relation toward European integration may mean that they see it only as an added value to an already established youth migratory pattern in Croatia. of young people about the determinants of upward social mobility in Croatia reflect their accurate perception of social anomalies that, if left unquestioned, threaten to deepen social inequalities and diminish democratic potential of the society. Namely, a great majority of the young see as important or highly important for social promotion in Croatia a combination of the following variables: adaptive behaviour, personal endeavour, knowledge and skills, and connections and acquaintances. University degree, money and wealth, and the obedience and submissiveness to the 'boss', are identified less but, nevertheless, reflect a combination of appropriate and inappropriate means of social promotion. Somehow more troublesome is the finding that one third to one half of the young consider belonging to certain nation or political party, as well as bribing and corruption as important determinants of one’ s success in Croatia. These data present an index of youth's perception of Croatian society as the society of unequal chances since it, by allowing nondemocratic practice to play an important role in social promotion, actually discriminates against those who in this matter believe in, and rely on their own abilities and efforts. When compared to earlier studies, it is highly troublesome that almost the same factors of social promotion are estimated as important by both socialist and ‘ transitional’ young people in Croatia. Overall examination of the above results may be seen as an indicator of a process of relative homogenisation of young people in today’ s Croatia – certainly, within the issues here examined and at the present level of analysis. There is no doubt that young people here described have many characteristic in common, especially in reference to their marital status, family pattern, housing conditions, parent’ s educational background, attitudes towards present and future life, professional and educational aspirations, desired accommodation, sources of information, satisfaction with free time, positive feelings about themselves, feeling of security in relation to their parents and friends, as well as in reference to their abuse of psychoactive substances. They also share their desire for autonomy and independence, and for the recognition by the society at large, as well as their dreams of a more just society in which life opportunities would match individual abilities and endeavour. When they differ, it is mostly due to their varied socio-professional status and age. Residential status, father’ s educational background, gender, and regional background are less important. The tendencies that have been deocumented suggest that youth are divided primarily by their actual social status and stage of attained maturity, and only secondarily by socialization factors, such as social origin in a narrow and broad sense of the term, and a gender socialization patterns. However, further analysis of data should disclose youth dominating trends with more accuracy.

Izvorni jezik

Znanstvena područja
Sociologija, Pedagogija



Institut za društvena istraživanja , Zagreb,
Filozofski fakultet, Zagreb,
Hrvatski prirodoslovni muzej


Avatar Url Vedrana Spajić-Vrkaš (autor)

Avatar Url Vlasta Ilišin (autor)

Citiraj ovu publikaciju:

Spajić-Vrkaš, Vedrana; Ilišin, Vlasta
Youth in Croatia. Zagreb: Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship, 2005 (monografija)
Spajić-Vrkaš, V. & Ilišin, V. (2005) Youth in Croatia. Zagreb, Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship.
@book{book, author = {Spaji\'{c}-Vrka\v{s}, Vedrana and Ili\v{s}in, Vlasta}, year = {2005}, pages = {148}, keywords = {Youth, Croatia, transition, behavior, problems}, isbn = {953-175-242-7}, title = {Youth in Croatia}, keyword = {Youth, Croatia, transition, behavior, problems}, publisher = {Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship}, publisherplace = {Zagreb} }
@book{book, author = {Spaji\'{c}-Vrka\v{s}, Vedrana and Ili\v{s}in, Vlasta}, year = {2005}, pages = {148}, keywords = {Youth, Croatia, transition, behavior, problems}, isbn = {953-175-242-7}, title = {Youth in Croatia}, keyword = {Youth, Croatia, transition, behavior, problems}, publisher = {Faculty of Humanites and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Research and Training Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship}, publisherplace = {Zagreb} }

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