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Nov 23, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Here’s why family policy is important and how this national consultation seeks to make a difference

Europe’s demographic decline comes as no surprise to anyone even superficially acquainted with current birthrates around the continent. Although some in western Europe have already decided that immigration offers the only way to make up for the loss, the Orbán Government pursues another solution -- make it easier for the nation’s own citizens to have bigger families – and in this national consultation, we’re asking citizens for their input on how to do that.

In today’s Europe there are two, directly opposing views on how to deal with population decline. There is the policy of the liberal mainstream, which says that promoting the immigration of non-Europeans is the only way we can save our continent from extinction. These voices argue that governments have no place in efforts to increase the birthrate and turn the negative trends around. Instead the focus should be replenishing a cheap labor force by promoting immigration. That is short-sighted and plagued with problems.

The Orbán Government, however, has chosen a different path. A path where Hungary’s demographic problem will be solved through family policy, not through immigration and migrants. Some results are already visible as Hungary keeps “winding back the clock” on demographic decline:

As early as 2012, we began to see a marriage boom in Hungary. By 2016, compared to 2010, the annual number of marriages grew an impressive 45 percent to almost 52 thousand – a number unrecorded since 1995. At the same time, divorces fell by nearly 23 percent, back to the level of the mid 1960s.

In line with the fact that marriage makes childbearing much more likely among the vast majority of women who desire to have kids, births were up three percent by 2016 in contrast to 2010. Meanwhile, Hungary had 34 percent less abortions last year than nine years ago. More than one third fewer babies aborted. Let that sink in for a moment.

Since the launch of the CSOK home subsidy scheme in 2015, applications from almost 90,000 families have been accepted, for a combined 257 billion HUF of funding. On top of that, the government recently announced that beginning next year the current 10 million HUF cap on home subsidies will be extended to 15 million forints, while keeping VAT on newly built real estate at an all-time low of five percent.

Altogether, Hungary’s spending on family policy in 2019 will exceed 2 trillion forints, more than five percent of GDP and double the amount that appropriated to such programs eight years ago under the Socialist-Liberal regime.

Back in 2010, when Prime Minister Orbán’s Government was swept into power with an overwhelming two-thirds majority, he promised to put Hungary’s economy on an upward trajectory, eradicate unemployment and reverse the country’s menacing demographic course. While the first two goals have been achieved or are within reach, the latter cannot be reversed overnight.

It will take time. Changing demographic trends is much like “turning around a large ocean liner,” as PM Orbán said in a speech last year, “we vainly turn the wheel, but the body will not follow the new direction in the next second, only slowly.”

But we’re indeed determined to change course, and that’s why we’ve launched this national consultation on the protection of the family.