Viktor Orban's Unprecedented Gamble on the Family

December 31, 2019

In an interview with Catholic News Agency (CAN) on December 5, 2019, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family Affairs justified the many efforts made by Viktor Orban's government towards families, in the name of the survival of the Christian identity of the country and also of Europe.

Although located only 1,500 kilometers from Budapest, Paris more than ever seems to be the opposite of the Hungarian capital. On November 29, 2019, Jean-Paul Delevoye, then high commissioner for pension reform, called for the commitment for the arrival of “50 million populations with ‘foreign’ between quotation marks (sic) to balance the working population by 2050 in Europe.” His remarks were based on a UN report from the year 2000, which figures at 47.4 million “the number of immigrants necessary to avoid a decline in the population” of the European Union, advocating a “migration of replacement” to deal with the aging of populations.

A few days later, Katalin Novak, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family Affairs, declared: “We have a demographic challenge ahead of us. If we give up on our Christianity, then we will lose our own identity, as Hungarians, as Europeans.”

The minister spoke in Washington at the second annual conference on family policy in Washington. She joined officials from the Trump administration, members of Congress, and representatives of non-governmental organizations in discussing how governments can promote pro-family policies.

A Stalinist Policy Against Birth Rates

Despite the increase in the number of marriages, the birth rate in Hungary remains lower than the replacement rate (2.1), even though it has increased due to Viktor Orban’s family policy. The fertility rate, which fell to 1.26 in 2010, has risen to 1.48 today.

An explanation is needed. The Hungarian Demography sheet from Wikipedia states: “Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Hungary presented an entirely atypical demographic journey. It was the first country in Europe to record for the first time a fall in the birth rate below the threshold of 2.1 children per woman, necessary to ensure the replacement of generations. This happened in 1959-1960, after drop that had started in 1956.”

This drop did not happen by chance. After the Hungarian uprising of 1956, Stalin favored a policy of low birth rates by imposing abortion. The terrible disappointment of the arrival of Russian tanks, after the hopes raised by the uprising, had a discouraging effect on the population, and abortion became a real scourge. The Red Czar had achieved his goal.

A Resolutely Anti-Malthusian Policy

Hungary is currently pursuing a natalist policy through financial incentives for families desiring to have more children, and through the promotion of a “culture of life.”

Among the measures recently taken by the Hungarian government: “Women who marry before their 40th birthday will be eligible for a subsidized interest-free loan of around €31,000 from the state; one-third of the loan can be forgiven if the couple has two children, and the entire loan can be forgiven if they have three or more children. Women with four or more children will be exempted from income tax for life.”

“Families with at least three children are eligible for a grant to purchase a car that seats seven or more people. Housing assistance is also a key part of the platform. Families with two children will be eligible for mortgage loan reduction that could be increased if they have a third child.”

Regardless of these financial incentives, Katalin Novak remains convinced that “our future rests on strong families.” Because money is not at the heart of the plan in the minds of the Orban government. “The state is aiming to create a culture that is more welcoming of families,”  

explains the minister, who adds: “Hungary was historically a Christian country since its first King Stephen and the state’s pro-family policies are meant to be a reflection of that in establishing a strong identity.”