Migracijske i Etniĉke Teme (Sep 2001)

Migration Dilemmas of Islanders: Commuting Leading to Migration or Remaining at Home

  • Ivan Lajić,
  • Sonja Podgorelec,
  • Dragutin Babić

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 17, no. 3
pp. 175 – 194


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The paper presents and discusses the results of an empirical survey carried out in April 2000 on the islands Prvić, Zlarin and Krapanj in the Šibenik coastal area. These islands are part of a group of islands marked by the highest rates of depopulation, in which even recently daily commuting was one of the most expressed forms of mechanical population development. Daily commuting is seen as an initial state leading to permanent migration, i.e. to out-migration. Potential migrants become familiar with the social, economic, cultural and other traits of their future destination area, which makes it easier for them to leave their places of origin. Thus, for the purposes of the research, the survey selected a population of daily commuters, mainly young people of working age who usually constitute the segment of the population most Iikely to migrate. The survey used both a questionnaire and interviews. Respondents belonged to two relevant groups of the island population: employees commuting each day to work and pupils commuting daily to school. Even though the sample included practically the entire island population with the given migrational and socio-demographic characteristics, the total number of respondents was still too small for the application of standard methods of statistical analysis. In order to gain better insight into the pre-migrational situation on the islands, a few adult islander commuters were added to the group of commuting employees. The goal of the research was to gain an understanding of commuting phenomena in the island micro-society, especially of the migration dilemmas of young islanders. The most frequent variables in the survey were: island/settlement, gender and school. Commuting between the island and mainland is the dominant form of spatial mobility among islanders and constitutes an essential part of their daily life. The most frequent reasons for commuting among islanders are school attendance, going to work, going shopping, visiting doctors, as well as visiting relatives and friends. Depopulation of the islands in the Šibenik costal area has had an effect on reducing the size of the category of commuters, commuting pupils and commuting employees. The islands are more and more becoming a peripheral area, and the islanders see the absence of the young population as a particular problem. Commuting pupils are facing dilemmas regarding the decision to leave the islands or remain on them, with both alternatives at present having equal weight. The desire to remain on the islands is somewhat stronger among secondary school pupils, in comparison to elementary school pupils, and somewhat stronger among female pupils than among male pupils. Commuting of (especially young) island populations has a tendency to develop into out-migration, which could have a further negative effect on the socio-demographic situation and, if the trend is not changed, could threaten the perspectives of local island communities. Factors influencing continued residence on the islands pertain to the sphere of economics, as well as to ecological valorisation of the islands. Tourism is the most attractive economic activity, although agriculture is also becoming more and more attractive, especially olive-growing as a traditional island activity. Transportation links do not constitute a major push factor leading to the decision to leave. However, in the given context this concerns the islands nearest the mainland, which are often better linked to the mainland centre (Šibenik) than are suburban areas on the mainland itself.