Many liberal democracies are facing a social crisis today because their governments pursued policies which undermined the family.
But since 2010, one country has seen marriage rates increase by a whopping 43 per cent with their divorce rate dropping by 22.5 per cent. Unsurprisingly, with the increase in marriage, 33 per cent fewer women are having abortions today than they were eight years ago. Likewise the national birth rate is currently at its highest in 20 years.
The country is Hungary. And earlier this month their parliament just passed a second round of sweeping pro-family policies. While other countries fret about how immigration trends will shape their destiny, Hungarians are actually solving their demographic crisis by a different path.
Hungary’s Minister for the Family, Katalin Novak, explains how their pro-family strategy faced profound opposition which they had to overcome if they wanted to save their country from social decline:
“After we won the election in 2010 with a two-thirds majority, we decided to build a family-friendly country and to strengthen families raising children. We thought the opposition would be a partner in this, but since then there have been very few decisions in the field of family policy that they’ve supported. So if we had always taken the opposition’s opinion into account, Hungary would now be on the brink of collapse. There wouldn’t be such a comprehensive family-support system, a family-friendly tax system, a housing program, 800,000 new jobs, and many opportunities to create a balance between life and work. The socialists have driven our country into deep crisis before, and they would do it again. They’re only interested in grabbing power again; to achieve this goal, they’ve even joined forces with the Hungarian far right.”
The new law which comes into effect July 1 has a new set of pro-family incentives such as a 3,000 euro mortgage reduction for a second child, and a 12,000 euro reduction for a third. Effective in 2020, mothers with 4 or more children will enjoy a lifetime personal tax exemption. Katalin Novak says that socialist opposition to pro-family policies remains entrenched but since they are more interested in power than in proposals that make for stronger families, she believes such opposition will grow weaker.
The family is one of the “necessary societies” in Catholic teaching. As Pope St John Paul II once put it, “as the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Hungary is proving that pro-family policies are better for nations than those policies which deracinate and diminish the family by the whims of ideological dictate.
Pecknold is an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, and Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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