Hungary shows families are the solution to Europe’s demographic crisis, not immigrants

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his family meet Pope Francis in Budapest on April 28, 2023. (Viktor Orbán, Facebook)
By Dénes Albert
7 Min Read

According to Euronews, Finland’s population is deteriorating dramatically, with the most pessimistic forecast predicting that by 2060 there could be no more Finnish babies born. The total fertility rate for Finnish women is currently only 1.32, compared to the European average of 1.53, another negative figure when it comes to ensuring the natural reproduction of the continent’s population. For this to happen, every woman would have to give birth to at least two children in her lifetime.

It has also been reported that in Berlin in 2022, Mohamed topped the list of the most common names for newborns, and it is also becoming increasingly popular in Hesse and Bremen, according to a survey by the German Linguistics Society. The proliferation of Muslim names is one factor in the trend towards a majority of young children in most large German cities — and already 38 percent in the school system — coming from a migrant background.

Therefore, while it is seemingly welcome that Germany’s population is growing year-over-year, this is solely the result of continued mass immigration and a greater willingness to have children among the immigrant, and mostly Muslim, population. With German women giving birth to just over one child on average, the most populous country in the European Union is facing a dramatic demographic transition and social crisis, possibly within a generation.

Another recent piece of news was that Pope Francis and Giorgia Meloni jointly urged a halt to the “demographic winter” at a meeting in the Vatican neighborhood “SOS, let’s reach 500,000,” referring to the goal of half a million children born in Italy every year between 2030 and 2032.

For this reason, it is also worth recalling that exactly six years ago, at the Second Budapest Demographic Forum, 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.

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The prime minister justified this by saying that although the number of marriages and births had increased dramatically 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.

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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 our country but throughout Europe.
In our country, the birth rate fell to 1.52 in 2022, although family policymakers hoped this would be temporary.

According to the latest flash report published yesterday 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.

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