Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced Sunday an incentive to women to boost the country’s declining population: Have four children and never pay income tax again.
The proposal, announced during an annual state of the nation speech, adds to the raft of generous incentives offered to Hungarians to have larger families — in order to stop population decline without resorting to immigration.
Orban, one of Europe’s most outspoken voices against immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, used Sunday’s speech to contrast his government’s response to demographic decline with countries in Western Europe.
“In all of Europe there are fewer and fewer children, and the answer of the West to this is migration,” he said.
“They want as many migrants to enter as there are missing kids, so that the numbers will add up. We Hungarians have a different way of thinking. Instead of just numbers, we want Hungarian children.”
Hungarian women have fewer children in their lifetime than the European average (1.45 children, compared to the European average of 1.58) and, like many of its Central European neighbors, the country is also facing a declining population as young workers chase higher salaries in Western Europe.
As a result, the country’s population is falling by 32,000 a year, and is projected to shrink from 9.7 million to 8.3 million by 2050.
Nevertheless, Orban has insisted that increasing immigration is not a solution to the crisis — claiming Western countries are being weakened by mass migration as a result of a conspiracy engineered by the Hungarian-born American liberal scion George Soros.
Orban, who himself has five children, said Sunday that Christians would become a minority in the “mixed population countries” that had allowed immigration from other parts of the world. “Those who ride that train will go to the last station and there's no return ticket,” he said.
Other social measures announced Sunday included interest-free loans of up to 10 million forint ($36,000) for newlyweds, which would be written off once they had three children, as well as creating 21,000 new nursery places, committing an additional $2.5 billion in funding to the health system, and support in buying vehicles for large families. Orban did not elaborate on how his government would afford the measures.
As the PM spoke, hundreds protested nearby in the latest demonstration against the government’s so-called “slave laws” — an unpopular measure imposed as a result of the country’s demographic decline. The law, which allows employers to seek up to 400 hours of overtime a year from workers, was passed in December in response to the labor shortage brought about by the country’s dwindling population.
Other governments in the region have employed similar incentives to attempt to turn around declining birth rates. In Poland, the conservative government pays families 500 zlotys ($130) a month for every second and subsequent child — a policy that costs about 1 percent of the country’s GDP.
Cover Image: Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban at an event in Poland to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Polish professor of history Waclaw Felczak. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)