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41st Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "European Regional Development Issues in the New Millennium and their Impact on Economic Policy", 29 August - 1 September 2001, Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia is less populated than most of the European countries (84.6 inh./km2 in 1991). Relative underpopulation is the consequence of various natural and social factors, and the resultant of a very uneven spatial distribution of population. The proportion between the least populated Croatian county and the most populated one is 1:10. The differences are especially observable on the level of municipalities and administrative towns. Some municipalities, especially those in the Karst highland area and on the islands, are half-desolate (real "suboecumena"). In 1991, the present-day 25 municipalities and 2 administrative towns had general population density less than 15 inh./km2. On the othewr hand, 30 administrative-territorial units are over-populated (>300 inh./km2). They include 4% of the territory and even 40% of the population of Croatia. The proportion between the least populated Croatian municipality and the most populated one (aside from towns) is 1:130. Most of the densely and over-populated municipalities can be found in suburban areas or close to them. It is the consequence of the process of polarized development, where the concentration of the work function is followed by the concentration of the population; in 1991, even 28% of the whole population lived in four macro-regional centers. Accordingly, there is a great discrepancy concerning the population of the Republic of Croatia. The differences between the urban and rural areas, as well as between the lowland and highland regions are especially significant. As to the other demographic features, especially that of natural trends, analyses have shown that the larger towns are not suitable for the optimal level of bio-reproduction. In the circumstances of a comlete demographic weakening of "ruris" the population od smaller towns is, de facto, the most vital bearer of reproduction; unfortunately their share in the total population is small (16%) and therefore they can not influence general and socially desirable trends. Such an unfavourable demographic development, particularly unueven population density, is developing from the consequence into the essential factor of the socio-economic development of Croatia. Namely, the prominently depopulated regions are inhabited by the population of a deteriorated biological and educational structure, so it becomes a limiting factor of further development. The demographic processes influence the development and multiply the negative consequences. Therefore, they diminish the possibility of reviving the "depressed" regions and put into question the general balance and stable development of Croatia.
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