Hungary has been hailed as a savior of families as Europe is confronted by an existential demographic challenge every bit as pressing as climate change.
During an opinion piece in The Article, the author highlights how a growing number of countries are responding to this demographic crisis, with a range of interventions and incentives. Hungary is an especially interesting example.
The piece outlines how Hungary’s fiscal supports to encourage marriage and household formation are highly practical. Women who have four children are exempt for life from personal income tax. Every married couple is eligible for a EUR 30,000 interest-free loan, where the mother is between 18 and 40 and expecting a child.
There are subsidized loans, with interest rates capped at three percent for married couples building and purchasing their home. Moreover, there are grants to encourage grandparents to participate in caring for their grandchildren and grants of EUR 7,500 too to help buy a larger family car. There are childcare places to help women returning to work.
So, the focus of policy is not just on reversing population decline, now an EU imperative. It’s not about “natalism”. It’s an expression of a deeper political and moral philosophy that seeks to enable women and young couples, if they wish, to marry and enjoy the experience of rearing their family.
The Article writes that these policies are working. Marriage is at a record high and birth rates are rising.
It’s difficult not to be impressed by Katalin Novák, the state secretary for family and youth affairs, the piece writes. A woman with three young children, she is an economist, highly qualified and well versed in European politics. She is also an eloquent advocate of a “family-friendly economy”. She insists that designating five percent of annual GDP growth in marriage, family and parent-driven childcare is not an “economic expenditure” — it’s the single most important and productive investment any country can make.
The deconstruction of the family erodes social capital, and requires interventions to mitigate the damage caused by marriage breakdown, as well as mental and emotional health problems that can arise.
Hungary’s policies don’t go with the grain of the EU’s liberal mind-set. This mind-set was what Roger Scruton lamented as the oppressively illiberal “New Europe” — and he would have known a thing or two about liberty, given the risks he took in supporting political freedom in Eastern Europe under Soviet Communism.
Now it’s Europe that is faced with crisis and it just may be that Hungary has at least part of the solution, offering policies that were once absolutely integral to Adenaeur’s Christian Democracy, as well as to the “Old Europe” of which Scruton writes in The Paris Report: a Europe in which we can Believe.
God, marriage, family and children. There is an authenticity about Hungary’s policies that speaks to Europe in these ancient, foundational times.
Read more here.