Family policy and social policy alike are strongly influenced by changes taking place in society. Like many European countries, Croatia has been experiencing demographic recession for quite some time, as indicated by reduced fertility rates, population decline, and population ageing. The family structure is also subject to gradual changes and pluralisation, although somewhat more slowly than in developed countries.
The birth rate (live births per 1,000 of a population) was 9.3 in 2014. In 2014, a mild drop of 0.9% in the number of live births was recorded in comparison to the previous year. The total number of live births in 2014 was 39,176 newborns. The mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 of a population) was 12.0 in 2014. In 2014, there was a 0.9% increase in the number of deaths in comparison to the previous year. The rate of natural increase in 2014 was negative at -2.7 (-11,273 persons).
Further, population ageing in Croatia is also pronounced. Based on the share of persons over 65 years of age, Croatia's 2014 rate of 18.4% was at EU level (18.5%). Croatia also has a negative net migration rate. In 2014, 10,638 persons entered the country and 20,858 persons left Croatia, which accounts for a negative net migration rate of -10,220. Croatia's demographic framework and its economic and social processes are reflected in the structure of the Croatian family. The number of marriages is decreasing continuously, and the number of divorces is on the rise. In 2014, there were 19,501 marriages and 6,570 divorces.
According to the 2011 census, there were 867,680 families with small children in Croatia: most were married couples with children, followed by mothers with children, while the number of fathers with children was significantly lower, and so was the number of common-law spouses with children. Families with one child account for one half of all families with children, and families with two children account for 36.8% in the total number of families with children. Families with more children are rare, especially those with four children and more.
Maternity and parental support schemes form part of the system of family policy and social safety. They serve to directly protect motherhood, facilitate the balance between family and professional duties, and encourage fathers to actively take care of their children from an earliest age. In the Republic of Croatia, all employed and self-employed persons, unemployed persons, and parents outside the system of employment exercise the right to a certain type of maternity and parental support (such as leave and monetary compensation for the duration of such leave).
Working pregnant women and mothers are entitled to maternity leave until their child turns six months of age. After the compulsory maternity leave (from day 28 before the expected date of delivery for a period of 70 days after birth), a working or self-employed mother is entitled to an additional maternity leave that lasts until the child turns six months of age and that she may transfer to the father of the child by a written statement.
Working parents have the right to parental leave after the child turns six months of age. The right to parental leave is the right of both working parents and it is generally used in an equal part: eight months for the first and for the second child, 30 months for twins, for the third, and for any subsequent child (each parent in the duration from four or 15 months).
If only one parent is on parental leave, as agreed by both parents, it lasts six months for the first and for the second child or 30 months for twins, for the third, and for any subsequent child.
During maternity leave, the beneficiary receives a benefit of 100% of the salary received in the period of six months preceding the leave, while during parental leave the benefit is EUR 348. The beneficiary may be a non-working parent and parent outside the system of employment (such as full-time students, persons not eligible for work) subject to the fulfilment of certain legal conditions. The benefit during maternity or parental exemption from work/care is EUR 217.
Further, under certain conditions beneficiaries may also receive one-off financial assistance for their newborn. It is EUR 304 and it is paid by the Croatian Health Insurance Institute. The 2014 amendments to the Act on Maternity and Parental Support stipulate that the adopted parents of twins and parents adopting several children at the same time have the same right to parental leave as working and self-employed parents, and the amendments also provide for harmonisation with the provisions of the Act on the Consolidated Expertise Authority.
Beneficiaries have the right to child allowance if their total monthly income by household member in the previous calendar year does not exceed 50% of the budgetary base (EUR 217). Criteria for exercising the right to child allowance are equal for all categories of beneficiaries. Based on census groups, the amounts of child allowance were established and they range from EUR 26 to EUR 109. The Government of the Republic of Croatia amended the Child Allowance Act in the part concerning protection of children with moderate to severe disability thanks to the ongoing process of consolidation of the system of social protection; the amendments provide for the realisation of the right to child allowance for children with moderate to severe disability after they turn 27 years of age and for as long as the condition exists.
People receiving child allowance are also entitled to a pronatality supplement of EUR 65 for the third and for the fourth child. That means that in addition to child allowance they also receive EUR 65 if the beneficiary exercises the right to allowance for three children, that is, EUR 130 per month if the beneficiary exercises the right to allowance for three children and more.
Accessible, affordable and quality preschool education services are becoming an increasingly important segment of family policy. In Croatia, investments in the programmes and services intended for child well-being and the family account for 1.6% of the GDP. Preschool care and education is organised for children from age six months to primary school. Preschool care and education programmes are organized in nursery and kindergarten groups at preschool and kindergarten facilities. They take the form of regular, full programmes, preschools, shorter programmes (from one to three hours a day or week) organised for all areas of activity with preschoolers, and preschool education programmes with other legal persons.
Kindergartens may be founded by the Republic of Croatia and by the local government (state kindergartens), by religious communities (kindergartens of religious communities), and by other Croatian legal and natural persons (private kindergartens). In the school year 2013/2014, preschoolers accounted for 64% of children in the regular programmes for children of early and preschool age. The percentage of children included in shorter programmes was around 36%. In the Republic of Croatia, there are 795 kindergartens, and the total number of children in kindergartens is 159,591 (64%).
As of 1 October 2014, the preschool programme is compulsory for all children in the year before they go to primary school and it includes 99.60% of children. The goal of the programme is to ensure optimal conditions for each child to develop and improve on his or her skills, habits and competences, to gain knowledge, and to satisfy his or her interests that will help in making adjustments to the new ways of living, growing and developing in school settings. Preschool programmes can be in the language and script of the national minority and bilingual. Gifted children in kindergartens are provided with the implementation of special preschool programmes. Work programmes for children with difficulties in development are organised for children from six months of age to primary school by including them in special educational groups with regular programmes, educational groups with special programmes, and special institutions. Preschool programmes gather 5,972 (5.46%) children with difficulties, 1,373 (1.50%) gifted children, and 2,570 (2.10%) children who are members of national minorities.
The Act on Nannies was adopted with the aim of advancing extra-institutional forms of family support. It regulates the performance of activities of nanny. It also provides for the self-employment of women and for the possibility of co-funding local and regional self-government in the development of this type of services. The aim of the law is to strengthen the family in its primary functions and to ensure more active protection of the rights of the child as well as the health and well-being of the child. Parents now have a choice when it comes to child care, and if they opt for this type of child care they can hire a professional who takes care of children in adequate conditions and in an adequate fashion, and whose work is supervised.
The new Family Act is in force as of 1 November 2015. It introduces the new modern approach to family law protection and a wider range of measures for the protection of the rights and well-being of children. For the purpose of additional protection of the interests of the child, the Family Act establishes the Special Custody Centre in which graduate jurists who have a bar exam and experience working with children represent children in disputes that involve their rights and interests, parental care, dispute of maternity and paternity, etc. Thus, children are represented in an independent institution, which enables representation of the child's interests that will not be affected by the interests of their parents and guardians.
The Temporary Support Act makes an additional step towards more robust and effective protection of the rights of the child to support. Where a child does not receive support, the Act enables a swift reaction by the state in the form of temporary support provided by social welfare centres and, on the other hand, accelerates the procedure where parents who do not pay child support repay funds to the budget. By such payment of temporary child support, the Republic of Croatia takes the legal position of the child and assumes support claims up to the amount of the amount it secured and paid to the child, with all subsidiary rights.
The purpose of the National Strategy for the Rights of the Child in the Republic of Croatia for the period from 2014 to 2020 is to achieve more effective promotion and protection of the rights of children in the Republic of Croatia through the implementation of the existing international and national standards in the field of children's rights, by promoting a thorough and integrative approach to the rights of the child. The Strategy focuses on four strategic areas: Improving the System and the Provision of Child-Friendly Services, Eliminating All Forms of Violence against Children, Ensuring Children's Rights in Vulnerable Situations, and Providing for Active Participation of Children.
One of the key priorities of the Strategy is to define relevant national indicators for the well-being of children - the so-called markers - that are used to evaluate the situation and needs of children and the realisation of policies in the Republic of Croatia. Indicators will provide measurable output of the realisation of children's rights, that is, they will facilitate the collection and comparison of statistics at national and international level as well as the research of priorities relating to children. The Government of the Republic of Croatia, in co-operation with the UNICEF Office for Croatia, formed a professional working group to work on the proposals of indicators. The first proposal of the working group is expected by the end of 2015.
With the aim of suppressing poverty and social exclusion, the Strategy to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Republic of Croatia (2014-2020) was drawn up. After the first year of its implementation, there are good results. This Strategy clearly points to the most sensitive groups of society exposed to poverty and social exclusion, children in particular, especially children without adequate parental care and children with difficulties in development.
Based on the Strategy to Combat Poverty, there was a contest in 2015 for the projects of civil society organisations aimed at the fight against poverty and the prevention of social exclusion. Funds were used for projects aimed at providing for meals in primary school for children from socially threatened families and for projects aimed at providing assistance to socially threatened families (providing clothes, footwear, school supplies, basic living needs for socially threatened families, and support for social self-service stores).
With the aim of providing services to children in line with their needs and the needs of communities in which they live, one of the strategic priorities of the Government of the Republic of Croatia over the past years was to deinstitutionalise and transform social welfare institutions. In the Operative Plan for Deinstitutionalisation and Transformation of Social Welfare Homes and Other Legal Persons Performing the Activity of Social Welfare in the Republic of Croatia 2014-2016, special attention is paid to the development of foster families, specialised foster families, increasing the number of foster parents, strengthening foster parents, and further strengthening of the capacities of experts in social welfare centres and homes, gradual decreasing of the number of children accommodated in such homes, and expanding the network of community services.
Deinstitutionalisation and removal of children from institutions is planned through investments in financial and professional resources to support biological and foster families and children themselves, which also contributes to the reduced risk of social exclusion. Support that is provided today by community service centres and homes enables children to grow up within the family, primarily their own, and if that is not possible, in a replacement family, that is, foster or adopted family.In the first six months of 2015, the total of 158 users were deinstitutionalised, of that 120 children and youths without adequate parental care and 38 children and young adults with behavioural problems.
With the aim of improving the quality of life of families in need, the “Croatia for Children” Foundation grants support in money and provisions and the use of cultural, educational, sports and similar content with the aim of promoting family values and strengthening families with a large number of children, families in poorly populous and isolated areas, lone parent families, pregnant women, new mothers, mothers and children exposed to health risks and the risks of educational, social and cultural exclusion, children without parents and children without parental care. The Foundation conducted a contest for the award of scholarships for the school year 2014/2015 for 500 secondary school pupils. The scholarship is EUR 92 per month. Also, in the period of implementation from 2014 to 2015, the Foundation (co-)funded 38 projects of legal persons (civil society organisations, educational institutions, etc.) aimed at family support and the protection and promotion of the rights of the child. The new Act on the “Croatia for Children” Foundation recognises the needs of children and youths leaving alternative care and the risks of social exclusion, so in the period ahead it plans to ensure financial support to the said population.
The information in the country profile was last updated in December 2015.