Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has addressed the 2nd Budapest World Congress of Families on May 25. Here is the part of his speech related to his Governments family policies and, below, the statement of Ms Katalin Novák Minister of State for Family.
|PM Orbán at the Budapest World Congress of Families / Budapest Family Summit|
(Photo: Árvai Károly/kormany.hu)
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Europe today we are witnessing the fiercest struggle between competing visions of the future. The starting point of this debate is that while there are more and more people surrounding us, in Europe our population is on the decline. The time for straight talking has come. Europe, our common homeland, is losing out in the population competition between great civilisations. Fewer and fewer marriages are producing fewer and fewer children, and the population is therefore ageing and declining. In Europe today there are two distinct views on this. One of these is held by those who want to address Europe’s demographic problems through immigration. And there is another view, held by Central Europe – and, within it, Hungary. Our view is that we must solve our demographic problems by relying on our own resources and mobilising our own reserves, and – let us acknowledge it – by renewing ourselves spiritually. (…)
The family is at the centre of the Hungarian government’s vision of the future. The motto of this conference is “Making Families Strong Again”. And this is right, because strong families will create a strong, competitive society and economy, a strong and competitive Hungary and Europe. When I was young – and it’s true that I grew up in a village – people used to ask how many children one had like this: “How many families do you have?” This question reflected the notion that in every child they saw the seed of a new family. Our goal, too, is to have as many children in Hungary as possible; because if there are children, there is a future.
I must tell you that our country, Hungary, also shares Europe’s problem of population decline. We, too, are doing poorly. We, too, must turn things around to reach the ideal state in which we are able to reproduce ourselves. Here I will quote a few figures for you. In 1980 10,709,000 people lived in Hungary. In 2017 that figure was 9,799,000 – meaning that in less than 40 years we have lost almost a million people in Hungary. I can tell our guests from abroad that this is more than all the casualties we sustained in World War II. So for some time the figures have shown us that we need a decisive turnaround in Hungary – and across the whole of Europe.
When the captain of a vast ocean liner wants to turn it around, he may turn the wheel in vain: the ship will not turn immediately, but will only slowly adopt a new course. As Prime Minister, I believe that this is just how it is with a turnaround in population and family policy. The most important thing is to designate our destination and adjust the wheel accordingly. It is important to highlight that the restoration of natural reproduction is a national cause; and it is not just one national cause among many, but the national cause. And it is also a European cause: not just one European cause among many, but the European cause. The goal of the Government of Hungary is to raise our birth rate to 2.1 per cent by 2030, which would be a replacement rate for our society. At present this figure stands at 1.5 per cent.
In other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to achieve a turnaround in population we first need to properly set the steering wheel on a fixed course. We must raise our birth rate to 2.1 per cent by 2030. It is not enough to just set out on the right course, however: we must also keep to that course – in particular when it comes to family policy and demography. We must pursue the course for decades. We must pursue the course over several government terms. This is the first precondition for a turnaround in population.
The second precondition for the turnaround is a powerful engine. One of the experiences of my thirty years in politics is that a major political, social and intellectual turnaround always requires financial resources, and we need a competitive model that is full of energy. If these things are not behind our goals – no matter how well-defined and morally right those goals may be – in modern politics the people will not give us a chance to implement that turnaround. As far as we Hungarians are concerned, I can tell you that here economic growth is in a range between three and five per cent. this is the magical GDP growth. Government debt is declining and unemployment is coming to an end. Because our economic policy has been successful, the next target of our general and economic policy is to promote the number of children being born. It is to this that we’ve adjusted our fiscal system, it is to this that we’ve adjusted our housing support system; and our work-based economic system – with which we shall soon reach full employment – also serves this purpose.
The third thing that is required for a population turnaround, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that the ship’s hull be in good shape. You should not forget that in Europe today there are a number of high-performing countries with enviable living standards, but which, in spite of their outstanding economic figures, are struggling with severe demographic problems. In Hungary we spend 4.6 per cent of GDP on family support. If as a unit of community the family does not occupy first place in the hearts of young people, however, economic strength and excellent national economy figures are in vain: we cannot achieve anything.
We who live here in Central Europe can still consider ourselves lucky. Marriage and family still constitute the core values in the lives of the majority of young people in Central Europe. If we ask them how they envisage their future, we find that they value marriage more than cohabitation, and would like to raise two or three children. Yet when it comes to the realisation of plans, we can see that for some reason some of the children once planned for are never born. On this basis, in Hungary we have come to the conclusion that we must pursue a policy which removes obstacles from the path of young people. The more we support our families, the more children will be born. With little support, only a few more children; with more support, many more children. We have arrived at this simple truth.
The Hungarian government, the Government of the Christian Democrats and Fidesz, has therefore decided that 2018 will be the Year of Families. Our new action plan – which is so fresh that the ink is still not dry on it, as we adopted it at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting – is not the first of its kind, nor the last. I sincerely hope that it will have an impact not only on Hungary, but, as a good example, also on the entire region.
We’ve decided to further raise the rates of family tax allowances, and to place families with two children at the centre of this, as they represent the largest section in Hungary. And I’ve learnt that where there is room for two, there is also room for three – or even four. Braver families may even find room for five. For young women with two children and student loans, the Government will cancel fifty per cent of their debt, and for those with three or more children one hundred per cent of the student loan debt will be cancelled. For graduates we shall extend the term of maternity leave by a year, and for university students it is extended until the child reaches the age of two. Hungarians understand the meaning of this family policy measure. “My home is my castle”: this is how the Hungarians think, and this is another reason why it is difficult to adopt a good policy here. We have decided that families with mortgages can have one million forints written off their debt if they have three children, and one million forints will be written off for each further child, with the state bearing the burden. Finally, we shall embark on infant day care developments on an unprecedented scale. We are going to build infant day care centres everywhere families live, and we shall renovate existing infant day care centres wherever necessary. We are also opening up our family support system – although cautiously – to fellow Hungarians who live outside the borders As a result, from next year they may also be eligible for maternity support after the birth of children, and baby bonds will be available across the entire Carpathian Basin.
In the interest of our spiritual and intellectual competitiveness and good policy planning – summoning up the spirit of Mária Kopp – we aim to set up a research institute. I support this research institution becoming an international think tank to provide sufficient knowledge and intellectual munitions to help and support families, laying the philosophical foundations for our family policy, and enabling accurate understanding of the situation in Europe and the world.
This, in essence, is our response in May 2017 to the greatest existential question for European civilisation. As far as I can see, we already have at our disposal the intellectual munitions needed for a European – not just a Hungarian, but a European – population turnaround. If we combined all the knowledge present in this room now, I could state with confidence that we would have the intellectual foundations for a European population turnaround. Of course there can never be enough brave, good and new ideas, but this is not what we lack the most. In Europe today we tend to lack good examples, and good, brave government policies. Therefore Hungary would now like to contribute to Europe’s success by setting a good, brave example of governmental action.
We know that we are sailing into the wind. In Europe the political and media mainstream is driven more by liberal ideology, which relativises values and which traditional families find so offensive. But we Hungarians also know that it is possible to sail into the wind. What’s more, it is even possible to make headway against the wind – however surprising that may be. It is often said that no wind can help those who do not know their destination. This is also true the other way round: if we know the port we are aiming for, we can use any wind to reach our destination. It only takes perseverance, courage and the backing of likeminded allies.
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