Hungarian action plan seeks to dramatically increase birth rate by 2030

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Thursday, at the World Congress of Families, held in Budapest, that his government intended to increase the birth rate from 1.5 children per woman to 2.1 by 2030. Hungary’s low birth rate and the decline in population has been a pressing problem for the country since the early nineties and new statistics show that the population has declined to just 9.8 million. At current levels, Hungary’s population will fall to 8.5 million by 2041. In Mr. Orbán’s mind, stopping the out-migration of young, working-age Hungarians or developing an immigration and integration policy is not the primary answer. Instead, as his right-hand man, Fidesz Vice President Szilárd Németh crassly remarked this week: “those who pump the world full of babies will rule the earth.” For those readers who understand Hungarian, there really is no way to demonstrate in translation how graceless Mr. Németh’s words were, referring to Hungarians as breeding machines and claiming: “aki teleszüli a világot, azé a világ…” MP Zsuzsa Szelényi of the liberal Együtt party called it a joke, when male politicians demand that women give birth. She suggested that Mr. Németh should give it a try too.

The goal is to increase the number of child births by 30,000 per year by 2030. No government has been able to turn around demographic trends that have been present since 1980, when the country’s population peaked at 10.7 million. And in the world of demographics, 13 years is not a long time to so dramatically change a long-standing trend.

Mr. Orbán’s action plan, however, includes some concrete measures in the hope of sparking population growth:

  • Any female who owes a student debt will have her outstanding balance cut by 50% if she gives birth to 2 children. With 3 children or more, her entire student debt will be forgiven.
  • Parents who give birth to 3 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.
  • The government will build and develop new nurseries and day care programs.
  • Parents with at least two children can expect new tax benefits, although the prime minister did not reveal further details on this aspect of the action plan.
  • The government will also establish a research institute to study demographics and ways to increase the country’s population.

“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,” said Mr. Orbán, who has five kids himself. “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.

Viktor Orbán at the World Congress of Families in Budapest

János Lázár, the minister overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office, noted that the goal was to make child support programs 5% of the nation’s GDP, in the hope that those who are willing to give birth to children begin thinking in families of three or more kids.

The partial student debt forgiveness and funds to pay down outstanding mortgages will be available as of 2018, although it is not immediately clear how this will be built into the next budget.

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