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Disappearing Hungarians

June 28th, 2011

The latest data suggest that the Hungarian population is continuing to decline. According to a right-wing daily, the recent changes in the welfare system may have contributed to this sad trend. A left-wing journalist notes that only in-depth surveys would uncover the real causes – one should not automatically blame the current government.

“Although there are many young Hungarians who do not want to have children, opinion surveys show that most are forced by financial circumstances to have less kids than they would like,” – Csaba Zsebők comments in right-wing Magyar Hírlap. According to a report by the Central Statistical Office (KSH), in the past year the number of births declined by 11 percent, while 3 percent more deaths were recorded.

Zsebők blames the political elite for the decline in the birth rate. “In the past year there have been reforms that served the interests of families, while others backfired.” Introducing a tax reduction for families with children and increasing the duration of maternity benefits are important incentives, but restricting access to sickness benefits does not encourage families to have more children. While it is important to confront  benefit fraud in order to reduce debt and boost demand, more money should be allocated to poor families by “fine tuning the flat tax system”.

Just a couple of hours after the data was published, the Socialists drew the conclusion that the misguided policies of the government are to blame” – writes Anna Danó in the left-wing Népszabadság, describing the claims which hold Fidesz responsible for the drop in the number of births as unsubstantiated.

“The decrease in the population may be stopped by increasing either life expectancy or the number of births. In Hungary, neither is happening,” Danó adds. But without more detailed data there is no way to analyse the reasons behind the trends.

Danó believes that the decline in the number of births is basically due to the fact that the baby-boom generation of the 1970s is turning 40, and will soon be too old to have more children. The statistics suggest that 45 percent of 30 year-old women have no kids. But as more and more women have children in their thirties, there is still a chance that they may  become mothers later on.

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