By Jonathon Van Maren
The photo of our interview was taken from the minister’s Twitter here.
In his 2017 book The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray remarked on an odd phenomenon. Despite steep demographic decline, he observed, most British women—and many Europeans—indicated a desire for more children than they were having. In fact, in some nations, population declines could be reversed simply by women having the children they claimed to want. So why is demographic decline going on largely unchecked? Murray and many others have wrestled with this question.
The Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, who has served as prime minister since 2010, is betting that state intervention can tip the scales and reverse the trends. Like nearly every other nation in Europe, Hungary has been facing a steep demographic decline since 1981. Katalin Novák, the 43-year-old Family Minister and vice president of the governing Fidesz party, says that the government first began to experiment with national family policy when they determined, early in their mandate, that popular support for such policies existed.
One of the key problems, Novák told me in an interview, was the state of marriage. In most developed countries, the popularity of marriage is evaporating—in Hungary, the number of marriages dropped 23 percent between 2002 and 2010. In response, she says, the government decided to support and incentivize marriage “because marriage is a more secure place for child-bearing.” The experiment worked, and the trend was reversed. Since 2012, the number of marriages in Hungary has doubled.