President Trump recently hosted the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban at the White House. (Until reading the coverage in the bien pensant papers I didn’t know that Orban’s first names were actually “Far Right” and Victor is just a nickname.) Although Orban is creating a lot of waves in Europe and around the world (maybe more so if the European elections deliver more “populist” MEPs) he has an ongoing and serious domestic problem to deal with. As Shannon discussed a few weeks ago, Hungary is facing a demographic crisis: falling population brought about through emigration and low fertility rates. The Hungarian government announced in February that it is throwing more financial incentives at people to encourage more babies and Orban is hoping that this will pay off. Otherwise Hungary is looking at losing a fifth of its current population by the middle of the century.
Recent data out of the central European country shows how big a problem these financial incentives are trying to remedy. The Budapest Business Journal reports that the year-on-year change from the start of 2018 to the start of 2019 is not painting an improving demographic picture; far from it in fact. The natural decrease in the first two months of this year was 36 per cent higher than in 2018. This was because there were 5 per cent fewer births in the start of 2019 and 10.5 per cent more deaths (the increase in year-on-year deaths in January 2019 was by a staggering 68 per cent!). At the same time the number of marriages declined slightly (down 2.1 per cent) and the total fertility rate decline from 1.49 children per woman to 1.43 children per woman.
Now of course these figures are only for the first two months of the year and the new governmental initiatives designed to reverse Hungary’s population decline were only announced in February. So the success of these initiatives can only be evaluated once the data for the months and years after February have been collected. But the trend is currently heading downward in Hungary. Like much of the rest of Central-Eastern Europe.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography Is Destiny, MercatorNet's blog on population issues.