At the Second Budapest Demographic Forum in 2017, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, announced that the Hungarian government had set the goal of raising the total fertility rate from 1.5 at the time to 2.1 by 2030, i.e., that every Hungarian woman should give birth to and raise at least two children in her lifetime.
The prime minister justified this by saying that although the number of marriages and births had increased in recent years, there had been no breakthrough on this crucial front. Restoring natural reproduction is therefore not a national issue, but the national issue. Four years later, at the Fourth Budapest Demographic Summit in 2021, he confirmed his conviction that there is only one right and viable way to tackle the population decline equation: The state must help families thrive.
The Hungarian family policy model has even been designated a Hungaricum, which are “designated national treasures” ranging from foods to folk costumes. This same model is praised and followed in more and more countries and is based on five pillars.
The first is that having children should be a financial advantage for all families, not a disadvantage. The second is that families should receive help to purchase a home of their own. Thirdly, family policy must be based on mothers. Fourthly, it is not just family policy that needs to be made; the whole country needs to be made family-friendly. And the fifth pillar is that the institution of the family and children must be protected by the law.
The prime minister also said that if it had not been for the new Hungarian family policy, and everything had remained the same, 120,000 fewer children would have been born in Hungary in 10 years. Instead, the number of marriages has almost doubled and the number of abortions has fallen by 41 percent since 2010.
“This is all well and good, but we are not yet where we want to be, and especially not where we should be. Hungary is only halfway there,” PM Orbán added.
“What does halfway mean? It means that the fertility rate bottomed out at 1.23 in 2011, and we have risen from that to 1.56 in 2020, meaning that we have caught up with Europe’s mid-tier demographic leaders in 10 years. In order to cross the magic number of two kids per woman by 2030, we would need to maintain the previous pace. Thanks also to expanding family support schemes and increasing budgetary spending —reaching 5 percent of GDP — the total fertility rate has risen to 1.59 by 2021, an improvement of almost 30 percent compared to 2011.”
However, this positive trend was interrupted by the economic crisis and insecurity triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine — not only in Hungary but throughout Europe.
The birth rate fell to 1.52 in 2022, although family policymakers hoped this would be temporary.
According to the latest flash report published by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH), there were 2.7 percent fewer births in April than last year, but 5.1 percent more children overall in the first four months of the year compared to the same period in 2022. This is positive, as is the fact that the estimated birth rate was 1.55 compared to 1.54 for the previous 12 months.
Even in the face of a more difficult — and unpredictable — external political and economic environment, the Hungarian government is sticking to its 13 years of predictable family policies that provide stability and security, including a wide range of family support schemes and instruments, as well as strengthening the child protection system.
Hungary is leading the way, providing a solution to the demographic crisis that’s hitting European nations – with the wise, patriotic policy, of, Families not immigrants!
Images from Viktor Orban’s Facebook