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Hungary is ahead of the curve on population policy

A young couple at Hungary's traditional Easter fertility festival. Credit: Getty

January 27, 2020 - 7:00am

2020 may be the year that the population problem becomes a political issue. Not the world’s growing population, which is confined almost entirely to sub-Saharan Africa, but the rapidly shrinking population and birth rate around the world.

Just on Friday the Ukrainian government apparently admitted that their population was in fact several million smaller than the world had previously believed.

Ukraine’s fertility rate is below 1.5 children per woman, which means that the population will half within two generations. On top of this, over 4.5 million Ukrainians work abroad, which is more than one-quarter of its working-age population; the largest contingent is in Poland, where they have replaced the huge numbers of Poles who have moved to Britain.

All over eastern Europe demography is reaching a crisis point, as low fertility and emigration empty towns and villages.

Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, cannot remain a ‘viable state’ if the current trends continue, and over the next 15 years will shrink by 22.38%. Medical services are especially affected in countries like Romania, where doctors have fled to the west.

But this problem is not just confined to the East; Italy is, in many ways, dying, strangled by the euro and by a succession of corrupt governments. Its people are not having families, and it’s losing its best people. Anyone who’s worked in financial services will know that London is filled with highly-skilled and intelligent Italians; great for London, but what about Italy?

US fertility is also collapsing, while China will get old before it gets rich, as the saying goes.

Is there a solution? I don’t know. As Paul Morland explained in The Human Tide, governments alone cannot reverse a birth drought, and the only country which has successfully reversed the drought is Israel, which faces existential threats and was built in the aftermath of a genocide. Which suggests it’s a psychological issue, too, although financial incentives matter, too.

Hungary’s family policy — which now includes free IVF treatment for all women — is widely unpopular among western journalists and commentators, but Hungary is almost certainly ahead of the tide of opinion on this issue. As Viktor Orban once said, there is no law of history that says Hungarians must exist, and for a people at the very end of the Great Steppe, who are for geographical reasons extremely vulnerable, national survival is obviously more important than an island nation with its own defensive moat.

Fertility will start to become more of an elite concern as the decade goes on; the EU aims to be a major world power and major powers, even liberal ones, know that demography is destiny and power. Perhaps the anti-natal rhetoric popular among elites will be toned down in future, or just seem like bad taste.

Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable


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