Study shows Slovenian community in Austria shrinking
The Slovenian community in the Austrian province of Carinthia continues to shrink, according to a study presented by the Austrian public opinion polling institute OGM on 28 March. The use of Slovenian in everyday life is in decline and it is still mainly used at home and in church.
When cross-referencing data from a 2001 census that recorded 12,600 Austrians with a command of Slovenian colloquial language, OGM found that the more "Slovenian" a locality was in 2001, the more its population tended to decrease.
In areas where the share of the Slovenian population had been above 30%, there was a 6% percent decrease in population in the past two decades. Meanwhile, areas where Slovenians accounted for less than 15% of the population saw slight increases in inhabitants.
Thus, out-migration has played a key role and has been particularly high among young women, who are usually more educated than their male peers, the Austrian Press Agency (APA) reported about the findings.
Parallel to this, a revitalization of Slovenian has been taking place in the southern part of the Carinthia province since Slovenia's accession to the EU due to the influx of Slovenian citizens, the report states.
As for the decline in the use of Slovenian in everyday life, the survey showed it being used primarily in the private sphere, among family members, but it also decreased in this segment.
Slovenian is meanwhile used much more rarely in public, in particular when it comes to institutions. This is usually not voluntary, but due to local clerks having poor command of Slovenian and a "de facto non-implementation by a number of authorities of the bilingual conditions required by law". The only clear exception to the less frequent use of Slovenian in the public sphere is church.
On the up side, the study notes as a positive development a sharp increase in enrolment rates in bilingual elementary school education in recent decades. At other levels of education, bilingual approaches lag behind by half. The use of Slovenian could be improved especially in pre-school education and in extended-stay or after-school care, APA reported.
The study, which included a survey of 562 people who are fluent in Slovenian, was carried out by the OGM Institute in cooperation with the advisory committee for the Slovenian community and the department for nationalities with the Federal Chancellery in 2021 and 2022.