Eight years after Hungary’s government launched its robust — and revolutionary — pro-family agenda, its leaders were proclaiming early victories Thursday in empowering young families as well as reducing abortions and divorces.
“We are on the right path,” Katalin Novak, Hungarian Minister for Family and Youth, told Newsmax.
She referred to the family-friendly policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government: paid leave up to three years for mothers or fathers with a guaranteed similar level upon return to work; major tax deductions with the birth of every child; tax incentives for employers to hire mothers with small children; and family-friendly education, including free food and books for children in primary schools and free first- university level degrees.
“This policy, which we introduced in 2010, is designed to support two goals we have as a government,” Novak explained, “to recover from this demographic situation [an aging population and low birth-rate] to empower families who already have children to make their lives better.”
Are they succeeding? Novak believes so, and to back up her case, the family minister offered some uplifting statistics: since 2010, the number of marriages is up 43 percent, divorces have decreased 20 percent, and the number of abortions has decreased 25 percent.
Emboldened by its policy and encouraged by these figures, the Orban government announced in February a new Family Protection Action Protection Plan to “correct Hungary’s demographic decline from within and to show an alternative to migration.”
Among the points in this latest plan is making every young married couple eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $35,000; increasing nursery places by 70,000 to provide day care for nursery-aged children if their parents wish to return to work; and—most controversial of all—a life-long exemption from personal income tax for women with four or more children.
In what was dubbed “the tweet heard ‘round the world,” Swedish Family Minister Annika Strandhall took to Twitter last month to charge that the “alarming” Hungarian agenda “reeks of the 1930’s” because “Orban wants to have more ‘real’ Hungarian children.”
“I wrote her [Strandhall] a letter making it clear it’s not about what she’s saying but protecting our position,” Hungary’s Novak told us, “I got many letters from Swedish people saying they don’t agree with their minister and wish they had a family-oriented government.”
Novak, herself a mother of three who doubles as vice president of the ruling Fidesz Party, freely acknowledged that many of the European Union member-nations are critical of her country’s pro-family policy. Moreover, while Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 warned that Europe’s low birthrate “could lead it to take leave of history,” the Vatican under current Pope Francis “has offered no acknowledgement” of Hungary trying to do something about its low birthrate.
“At least they’re not criticizing us,” she said.
As for supporters of the Hungarian agenda, Novak cited Poland and the Czech Republic. Recalling a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andres Babis, she said the billionaire politician “is a very talented fellow who is very interested in our pro-family agenda. Italy is also introducing pro-family legislation and Novak has met recently with its family minister.
But she reserved special praise for the Trump Administration, hailing its emphasis on families “a breath of fresh air.”
“To hear the President in the State of the Union Address talk about the unborn children and how we need to protect them—it is something not only brave, but leadership that is for us very important,” Novak told us, “Regarding the US. It’s an understatement to say we weren’t sharing the same opinion with the Democratic Administration. Now that we have our allies, it’s great.”
In 2016, government statistics showed the average number of children per family in Hungary was 1.45. This rate has not gone up in the following year, leading critics to say that the Orban agenda is not yet working.
But Novak sees it differently. In her words, “it’s not only that how many we are, or how many we will be in ten, twenty or thirty years. It’s about the quality as well, not just the quantity. I say maybe in the next generation, we’ll see the results. There is a saying that a child’s education begins at the conception of his or her mother. For the pro-family mentality to take effect, it will probably take one or two generations. We are on the right path.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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