Definition of Youth

Croatia’s National Youth Programme (2014) defines youth as aged 15-30 years old.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • ++
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • ++

  • Civil unions/partnerships legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Only correctional measures may applied to a minor who at the time when he or she committed an offence was between 14 and 16 years of age. Source:  Juvenile Courts Act of Croatia

Majority Age



Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 99.73% Male (15-24) %
  • 99.75% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 92.33%Male %
  • 95.08% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 23.30% Male (13-15) %
  • 25.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Croatia has a National Youth Programme covering 2014 to 2017.

The 2014 National Youth Program, the first one that is research-based, aims to improve the activities of governmental bodies and public institutions for the development of young people in Croatia. As described by the country sheet on Croatia (2016), it has 7 priority areas, with 19 objectives, 40 measures and 118 tasks attached to them. The seven priority areas are:

  • Education, training and life-long learning;
  • Employment and entrepreneurship;
  • Social protection and inclusion;
  • Health and health care;
  • Active participation of young people in society;
  • Youth and culture;
  • Youth in the European and global context.
It is the third national youth program, after the 2003 Youth Action Program, and the Youth Program 2009-2013 (referred to as the “new National Youth Program”), an update of the original, with measures and activities specifically for 2009-2013.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Department for Youth is situated within the Directorate for Social Policy, Strategy and Youth in the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, often referred to as the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth. The Ministry coordinates the Youth Council of the Croatian Government, an interdepartmental advisory body on public policies for youth established in 2012. It is comprised of 27 members, with 17 representing government departments, 7 from youth organisations and 3 from scientific and educational institutions. The Ministry oversees the implementation of the 2014 Youth Advisory Boards Act, which obliges every municipality to involve young people, aiming to enhance the participation of young people in public affairs that concern them.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Croatian Youth Network (MMH) represents 66 non-governmental youth organisations in Croatia. Its main goals are to raise awareness about young people, co-create and advocate for quality youth policies, and contribute to the development of civil society. It is coordinated by a Managing Board of elected representatives from member organisations, led by a Secretary General that is elected by the Board, and makes decisions via a yearly General Assembly. It participates in the Youth Council of the Croatian Government and is a member of the European Youth Forum.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
As reported by Lider on 14 November 2013, the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth was allocated HRK 6.2 billion (USD 1.1 million) in 2013, however it is uncertain what portion of this was specifically for youth. According to the World Bank, Croatia spent 4.31% of its GDP on education in 2010, but does not calculate what this translates to in terms of percentage of government expenditure.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From National Youth Program 2009-2013 (2009):  
Research insights in the world and in Croatia until today have shown that the transition of young people into the so-called world of adults is becoming more complex and longer-lasting. Institutionalized education lasts longer, contemporary technological changes ask for more qualified and flexible workforce, and economic developments cyclically cause an increase in unemployment, which mainly affects youth. The abovementioned processes result also in a slower entrance into the so-called world of work, i.e. slower socioeconomic independence, which forces young people to stay in dependent position. Difficult inclusion into the professional work contributes to the prolongation of establishing of their own families, and therefore in Croatia, as in the majority of European countries, young people enter their first marriage at later and later age, and consequently, they get children later. Although all rights are granted to them upon reaching the age of majority, at the same time political (self)passivization and suppression of young people from decision-making positions take place, so their interests in the political arena are more or less successfully mediated by adults. Later and later overtaking of permanent social roles and exclusion or insufficient inclusion of youth in economic, political and social processes have as their consequence the insufficient social integration of the young generation. This means that young people’s potentials, as the most vital, most flexible and potentially most innovative and most creative segment of contemporary society, remain insufficiently used. Here one has to bear in mind that during the last half century, marked with the processes of modernization, in Croatia, the portion of young people aged 15 to 30 decreased from 27.7% (in 1953) to 20.6% (in 2001). Similar demographic changes also took place in the majority of European countries, and the trend of aging of population makes young people an additionally more precious social resource. [...]
According to the data obtained, during 2006, 2007 and 2008, there were 3,032,220,560.14 HRK [approxima­tely USD 540 million] spent for the purpose of implementation of measures from the National Youth Action Plan.
From Policy Brief on Croatia: Country and the hour: road to effective and inclusive implementation of youth guarantee (no date):  
Croatia will become the 28th member of the European Union on July 1 this year, fully entering the policy framework of this political community. This also applies to the field of employment policy which, although strongly defined by non-binding cooperation among member states within the framework of Open Method of Coordination, places additional demands before competent public bodies (primarily, Ministry of Labour and Pension System).
One of the key reforms already put forward by the Commission which is of special relevance for Croatia is the introduction and development of Youth Guarantee scheme by the beginning of 2014 within the framework of Youth Employment Package. In a nutshell, Recommendation of the European Commission, adopted in February 2013 by the European Council, puts forward a request before all member states to develop a package of measures guaranteeing to each and every young person aged 15-24 job/internship placement or continuation of training/education within 4 months of his/her unemployment or inactivity. [...]
Croatia’s youth unemployment rate average in 2012 stood at 41,7%, placing it at the very top of the infamous chart of EU youth unemployment record holders. However, it should be noted that the current situation has a long-standing history. The closest Croatia came to lowering youth unemployment rate to the level of EU average was in 2009 when national youth unemployment rate stood at 25,1% (EU average 20,1%). However, since then the gap has been widening at an increasing pace – in 2010 youth unemployment rate spiked to 32,6% (EU average 21,1%), 36,1% in 2011 (EU average 21,4%), and finally reaching almost 42% in 2012, resulting in a shocking differential of 20% in comparison to EU average, which in 2012 stood at almost 23%.
This data is important for understanding that Croatia did not just “import” youth unemployment along with the economic crisis which has been stifling European (and world) economies since 2008. Saying that the economic crisis deepened the already existing structural barriers to effective youth employment regime would be considerably closer to the truth. Causes of this situation are numerous and even the briefest of overviews would go far beyond the ambition of this short paper. Nonetheless, weak links between worlds of work and education, continuous labour market segmentation, destruction of the country’s industrial potential and the lack of overall strategic approach to social and economic development merit special attention. However, what is obvious is that Croatia will continue to live with high youth unemployment. This conclusion is underpinned by growth projections published by the International Monetary Fund (2013: 66) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2013: 7), which predict further GDP decline in 2013 and moderate recovery in 2014. When it comes to this notion of “moderate recovery”, another projection published by Erste Group provides a glimmer of hope for Croatian economy, which sees: “...mid-term growth prospects profiting from access to common market and access to EU funds, where Croatia can hope to draw up to 2.5% of GDP in 2014-2020 period.” (Erste Group, 2013: 3).
From United Nations Development Report on Croatia (2004):
Although the situation has improved in the past few years, there is a strong sense of nationality generating separation, prejudices, discrimination, non-tolerance and conflicts within the society, as well as among the young people. In the same way manifestations of xenophobic, violence, racism and dis- crimination on all levels (religious, age, gender, sexual orienta- tion, etc.) have been noticed in the social environment, which inevitably influences their attitude and value formation.
Post-war and transitional period in Croatia and neglecting the youth as a specific group caused sustainability and transition of prejudices, discrimination and violent behaviour pattern among the young. Social and political context in Croatia does not yet pro- vide sufficient support from the institutions, and there is no aware- ness and willingness among the citizens for the active involvement in the change of this situation.
The results of our research suggest that young people in Croatia are still at the margin of crucial social events, which directly results in pessimism, apathy and fundamental indifference for broader social community and happenings within it.