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Hungary shows that supporting the family works


THE facts are incontrovertible, but inconvenient. What do our political and media elites do with inconvenient facts? They ignore them, and ridicule and treat with contempt any oik so uncouth as to bring them up.

The incontrovertible facts are that when a society follows the ethical norms of Scripture, especially one in which the traditional family is valued and supported, children and society are much stronger. To advocate this is to encounter a barrage of woke outrage that you are demonising ‘courageous single mothers’, alternative family structures and sexual minorities. Add to that the idea that nations have a right to decide to maintain their historic identity, and you have a recipe for progressive outrage.

The Lancet reckons Europe faces a demographic crisis. The study indicates that 21 out of the 27 EU member states will see their populations decline by 2100. Some countries including Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain will probably see their populations reduce by more than half in that time, by as much as 77 per cent for Latvia.

With an ageing population, Europe desperately needs more youngsters to work, pay taxes and support its increasing number of frail elderly. Rather than encouraging the traditional family, Western European leaders have chosen as their solution to demographic collapse the mass importation of Third World immigrants.

This progressive neo-colonialism, which instead of going abroad to plunder the resources of the Third World resorts to importing its nurses, care workers and other professionals, is harmful for all. It results in the further impoverishment of the Third World home nations and the restructuring of the European nations, causing tensions within them.

The fetishising of immigration has resulted in a deepening fault line in the politics of most Western European nations. The growing disparity between the views of the elites and the ordinary indigenous people results in the increasing disillusionment of many with the political and media establishment. This does not bode well for the stability of the West.

The oik who refuses to go down this destructive route is Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary. His nation has an even greater demographic problem than Europe generally: while the EU’s average fertility rate is 1.59 children per woman, Hungary’s is lagging at 1.49. Orbán’s solution to the declining birth rate is not to import people but to increase the Hungarian population by supporting the traditional family. ‘We do not need numbers, but Hungarian children,’ Orbán said in his State of the Nation address in February 2020. 

Hungary’s new constitution, adopted in 2011, is explicitly Christian. Its preamble, the National Credo, begins: ‘We are proud that our king Saint Stephen built the Hungarian State on solid ground and made our country a part of Christian Europe one thousand years ago . . . We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving our nationhood.’

Throughout, the constitution defends traditional marriage and family creation: ‘We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework for our co-existence’; ‘Hungary protects the institution of marriage between man and woman, a matrimonial relationship voluntarily established, as well as the family as the basis for the survival of the nation. Hungary supports child-bearing.’

These are not just words; Hungary puts them into action. Since early July the Hungarian government has offered married couples a loan of 10million forint (around £25,500) which they do not have to pay back if they have three children.

The loan is one part of Orbán’s seven-point Family Protection Action Plan, announced during the 2020 address. The Hungarian government plans to devote 4.8 per cent of GDP to supporting families and encouraging them to have children.

The plan includes a loan programme to support home purchases, subsidies on cars for large families, and a lifetime exemption from personal income tax for women who have brought up at least four children.

Couples must meet specific criteria to get the loan:

·       They must be married, one of the two on their first marriage;

·       The wife must be aged 18 to 40;

·       One of them must have paid social contributions in Hungary during 180 days in the last three years;

·       If couples have one child in a five-year time frame, the interest on their loan is suspended permanently and monthly repayments are halted for three years. Adoption also counts;

·       The birth of a second child allows a further three-year pause on repayments;

·       With the birth of a third child any money they have repaid will be returned and the loan completely written off.

If the couple fail to produce a child in five years or get divorced, they must repay all that they have borrowed plus interest within four months. This does not apply if there is a medical reason why they have not had a child.

The reaction to Hungary’s family policy is extreme: ‘A virulent disease’,  ‘infinite foolishness’ and ‘doomed to failure’. Annika Strandhäll, Sweden’s social affairs minister, tweeted that Orbán’s family policy ‘reeks of the 1930s’ and that ‘what is happening in Hungary is alarming’. Coming from the minister currently in charge of Sweden’s disastrous and choiceless daycare policy this is somewhat ironic.

By focusing on the strong family outcomes that have taken hold over the decade it has been in power, the Hungarian government has seen marriage numbers grow and abortion and divorce significantly decrease. The fertility rate is approaching numbers not seen in the East European state since the 1990s.

In the UK we are moving in the opposite direction. Today 48 per cent of births are outside marriage and this trend is likely to increase. In only a few years, likely around 2024 or 2025, we will, for the first time, be experiencing the majority of births occurring outside marriage.

Meanwhile the UK government, in its language concerning family structure and in its policy mechanisms, fails to distinguish married from cohabiting couples. Our welfare system incentivises lone parenting: the couple penalty means that the majority of claimants receive more financial support from the state if they are not married. 

The consequences of what really should be described as married family penalties are clear. These push low-income married families with one provider into poverty; they encourage delaying the age of first-time birth; they drive first-time (often already older) mothers back to work ever earlier, thus discouraging them from having further children in an already limited window of opportunity. With a tax and benefits system so chronically skewed against married families, isn’t time that we too looked to repair this terrible damage to our society and wellbeing and took a leaf out of Orban’s book?

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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