Budapest, Hungary – Hungary has offered more than €30,000 to married couples able to produce at least three children.
Under the scheme, married couples can ask for a loan of €30,590 which they won’t have to pay back if they can have three children.
The couples are entirely free to decide how and when to spend the interest-free loan. They need, however, to meet a number of criteria: they need to be married, the wife has to be aged between 18 and 40 and it has to be the first marriage for one of the two, among other conditions.
How does it work exactly? If a couple subscribes to the loan and has a child in a five-year period, monthly repayments are halted for a duration of three years while interests are suspended forever.
Another three-year pause can be granted with the birth of a second child, and the loan is completely written off if the couple manages to have a third child. All the money contributed is also returned in that last case.
If, however, the couple fails to produce one child in the five-year time frame, or if they get divorced, all the money borrowed must be paid back within 120 days (unless they provide a medical certificate explaining why they cannot have a child).
Citing the results of a questionnaire sent out to the population, the state International Communications Office told Euronews that “people would like Hungary to remain a Hungarian country, and be family-friendly”.
One of the key measures of the Family Protection Plan unveiled by Prime Minister Viktor Orban in February, the €30,000 loan for married couples able to produces three children took effect last month.
According to the Hungarian State Treasury, over 2,400 families had already asked for the loan within two weeks of its launch.
The seven-point Family Protection Plan of the Hungarian government is a key pillar of Orban’s policy, meant to curb the falling birth rates and declining population by encouraging births rather than relying on immigration.
“There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe. For the West, the answer is immigration”, Viktor Orban said during this year’s state of the union address. “For every missing child, there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine. But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children. This is the Hungarians’ answer, not immigration”.
Apart from the €30,000 loan for the third child, the plan also includes a lifetime exemption from the personal income tax for women who have four children or more, financial support for housing purchases, a pledge to create over 20,000 new nurseries over the next three years and subsidies on seven-seater cars for families with at least three children.
“Critics says the Family Protection Action Plan is adapted to benefit middle-class Hungarians and won’t reach the poor”, writes Euronews, while “the capacity of current childcare facilities to cope with more children has also been called into question”, including the lack of creches and nurseries.
Others have accused the government’s family plan of “harming the autonomy for which women have struggled for decades” and consigning Hungarian women’s role to that of child-bearer.
“Increasing the number of births is very difficult, because we have less and less women of child-bearing age”, Hungarian State Secretary for Families Katalin Novak told the BBC.
The challenges ahead are huge, and the consequences could be dramatic: according to EU projections, Hungary’s population could shrink by 20% by 2100.