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Hungary’s population sees sharpest decline in almost 150 years

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Budapest, Hungary – The population of Hungary has experienced its steepest annual drop in nearly 150 years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic death toll.

As data compiled by online Hungarian media Telex show, the number of new births last year reached its highest level in a decade, with 93,000 children born in Hungary in 2021.

This has however proved insufficient to compensate for the record-high annual number of deaths, which increased to 150,000, the highest since 1945.

As a result, the Hungarian population dropped by nearly 60,000 in 2021, the largest decline since 1876. The previous year, the number of deaths already exceeded the number of births by nearly 50,000.

Last year’s increased death rate is largely a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of more than 40,000 Hungarians since the initial outbreak, according to figures released by the government earlier this week.

Hungary currently has the fourth highest number of Covid-related deaths per capita in the world behind only Peru, Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Regardless of the pandemic’s human toll, Hungary has one of the EU’s lowest life expectancies, which also needs to be factored in when examining demographic data.

Due to the mix of a strict immigration policy, large numbers of predominantly younger Hungarians emigrating abroad and low birth rates, Hungary is one of the countries in Europe most affected by demographic decline.

The population is estimated to have shrunk by 350,000 in the last ten years, and could drop below 8 million by 2100, according to some forecasts.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long advocated pro-family policies – including generous financial grants, tax reliefs and medical benefits – to reverse the trend and increase the country’s birth rate.

And while there are signs some of these policies could be having an impact – the fertility rate increased from 1.2 to 1.5 from 2010 to 2020 – the latest figures show that they remain insufficient to keep the population at its current level, let alone reverse the decline.

Pre-pandemic predictions by the EU and the UN estimate that Hungary’s population could drop by 20% to 30% before the end of the century.