Hungary government scheme sparks marriage boom. Will babies follow?
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A new Hungarian government scheme to promote marriage and childbirth with subsidized loans has already helped produce a boom in weddings, though it is still too early to say whether more babies will follow.
Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has made it a priority to persuade more Hungarians to marry and have children to reverse a population decline. He has introduced a number of tax benefits and other programs to favor families.
A big new scheme this year offers couples that marry before the bride’s 41st birthday subsidized loans of up to 10 million forints ($33,000). A third of the loan will be forgiven if they go on to have two children, and the entire debt wiped out if they have three.
The central statistics office (KSH) said there had already been a 20% surge in the number of people getting married during the first nine months of this year. The number of weddings recorded was the highest over that period since 1990.
“The family incentive program was launched as of July 1, when various new benefits were introduced ... and a precondition is that couples have to be married. So we think this is one of the key explanations,” said Gabriella Geczy, a KSH statistician.
In September alone, 29% more couples married than in the same month last year. Hungary saw the most September weddings since 1979.
Earlier this month the government said more than 50,000 couples had so far applied for the new subsidized loans.
Whether this year’s newlyweds will go on to have more babies has yet to be seen. So far, the birth rate has actually fallen slightly this year, to 1.48 babies per woman, from 1.49.
Hungary, like many other European countries, especially in the formerly communist east, is struggling with a declining birth rate. Orban's right-wing government is fiercely opposed to immigration.
What do you think? If a country like Hungary has a population problem and the population is declining, are they better served by trying to increase birthrates, rather than relying on immigration from other regions of the world. I suppose all sorts of arguments could be made either way.
Hungary's president is concerned immigration could have a permanent negative impact on his country, and rather than all those people adapting to European society, it would change European society and make it more like all the societies in the parts of the world where these people are coming from. (Which arguably might not be such a good thing)