Hungary Fueling Fight Against Demographic Decline

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  December 29, 2017   

Fresh wave of pro-family policies expected for 2018

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BUDAPEST ( - Led by Hungary, the nations of Central Europe are ramping up efforts to halt population collapse.

At a conference on family policy in Budapest last week, Hungarian parliamentary representative Gabriella Selmeczi conceded Europe is in the midst of demographic crisis.

The fertility rate "needs to be improved," she rallied participants. "[W]e have to do something."

But in contrast to the approach of western European Union nations, the Visegrád Group (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia), is committing to boosting population growth naturally, instead of through mass migration.

Pointing to her own country, Selmeczi suggested a robust national family policy could help solve the European population implosion.

Since 2010, Hungary has instituted a series of pro-family measures, more than doubling the amount spent annually on family support to 4.8 percent of GDP.

Gabriella Selmeczi, Hungarian MP

In 2016, the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán introduced the Family Housing Allowance Program or CSOK, which offers up to 20 million HUF — more than $75,000 — per family for housing. It also slashed the value-added tax rate on newly built homes, from 27 percent to 5 percent, specifically to encourage home ownership among young couples.

Hungarians have responded; in the past few years, the fertility rate has risen from 1.23 to 1.49 — an increase of more than 20 percent — and today, approximately 200,000 Hungarian families have three or more children.

Still, the fertility rate remains well below the replacement level (2.1), at which population stabilizes. If the current rate holds steady, over the next quarter-century, Hungary's population will fall from 9.8 million to 8.5 million.

The government has responded by laying out an aggressive target, aiming to return the country to population stability — a fertility rate of 2.1 — by 2030.

We want our politics built on families. ... Make families again the core of European politics. Families and children are really a blessing — not just for the nation but for the entire European community.

Orbán has declared 2018 a "year of families" and further measures aimed at boosting population growth are expected:

  • Any woman owing student debt will have her outstanding balance cut by 50 percent if she gives birth to two children; with three or more, the debt will be completely forgiven
  • Parents who give birth to three children will see the outstanding mortgage on their home decline by 1 million forints. Each additional child will result in a subsidy of 1 million forints per newborn, to be applied to the outstanding mortgage balance
  • Additional tax benefits for families with at least two children

The government will also build new nurseries and day care centers and launch a demographic research center to study ways to fuel population growth.

Addressing the new measures, the prime minister reflected, "Where there is space for two children, there is space for three, as well as for a fourth."

"The braver ones can accommodate five as well," Orbán, a father of five himself, added.

"The government has come to the simple truth that a little more support means a few more kids, while greater support means a greater number of children," he added.

Though nothing has yet been done to combat the foundation of the population crisis — the contraceptive mindset — a certain line in the sand has been drawn.

Budapest's family policy conference

At last week's Budapest conference, Visegrád representatives openly rejected gender ideology, reaffirming the biological reality of two, fixed sexes. They also voiced support for traditional values, pledging "to protect life, marriages based on the relationship between man and woman, [and] the family on which the whole of society is based."

The conference sent a dispatch to Brussels outlining pro-family policies discussed in Budapest, "hoping that this voice would be heard in other capitals of Europe."

"We want our politics built on families," said Orbán, remarking on government responses to the population crisis. "Make families again the core of European politics. Families and children are really a blessing — not just for the nation but for the entire European community."

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