Family mainstreaming – departure point  from the demographic and cultural crisis in Europe

International conference
 
Bratislava, 28 October 2016
 
On the way to be a family-friendly country
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Governments and local or civil communities and also churches – the society -  have huge responsibility in supporting, strengthening and valuing the family. In Hungary we made a decision to build a family-friendly country, in other words to mainstream and prioritise family. We are at the first stages of this long way. Let me show you what are the causes of this decision, what measures are taken until now and what are our future plans. 
 
Hungary is one of the European countries that has been most affected by the demographic winter. It is clear that all actors in society must cooperate not only help to slow this process but to reach a lasting turn and move towards a demographic growth. Therefore, the government’s family policy measures are based, on the one hand, on demographic considerations and, on the other hand, on the aim of  reducing the burden of having children. The objective can be achieved with a stable, complex, targeted and flexible family policy that is capable of adapting to changing needs and conditions. 
The protection of families and the support of families in having children is a key question to Hungary. According to our position the family support system has different goals than social policy: while the latter has to provide help for those in need, the family policy has to provide solutions to all family types, so that families can have the number of children they wish.
Parents and parents-to-be need long-term stability and a reliable financial situation. In this respect, employment and the easy reconciliation of work and family obligations are of key importance. Therefore, we make attempts to help parents harmonise their career and raising children. In Hungary, the average number of children parents wish for is approximately two; however, the number of children who are actually born is considerably lower. 
The fertility rate increased from 1.26 in 2010 to 1.44 in 2015 (the highest value since 1996). Obviously, for the reproduction of the population the much higher value of 2.1 would be necessary. 
 International experience shows that individuals are willing to have more children in those countries where the employment rate is high and the state offers help to ensure that parents can reconcile work and family life.
A principle of Hungarian Government’s family policy is that parents should be offered the opportunity to decide if they wish to stay at home and raise their children for a longer period of time or to return to the labour market as soon as possible. Therefore, citizens are offered, on the one hand, childcare and family support and, on the other hand, at the same time benefits that promote return to the labour market and the development of daycare for children.
An emblematic tool of Hungary's family support system is the family tax benefit which was implemented in 2011 and offered gradually to more and more citizens in recent years. From 2016 until 2019, the family tax benefit for families with two children will be doubled, by the reason of promoting the birth of siblings.  The tax benefit for first-wed new couples was introduced in 2015 and since that time the number of marriages has been increased by 25 %. 
On the basis of their subjective right, parents are entitled to a paid childcare leave for three years. In case the parent had social security coverage before the child was born, infant care fee is offered for half a year and, after that, child care fee until the child reaches the age of 2. This is 70% of the salary earned before the child was born but it is maximised.  Between the ages of 2 and 3, the parent is entitled to child care allowance of a lower amount, granted on the basis of a subjective right. In case the parent did not have social security coverage before the child was born, child care allowance  is granted from the birth of the child until the child reaches the age of 3.  
Child care fee Extra, introduced in 2014 offers significant support and marked a conceptual change. Due to this parents may take up employment when their child becomes 6 months old without losing their eligibility for child care fee or allowance. Its objective is to ensure that having children does not exclude individuals from the labour market and that mothers don’t have to decide between staying at home with their children or taking up employment. 
Still the biggest budgetary item is the family allowance, offered on the basis of a subjective right and granted for each child until the completion of the child's secondary studies. The amount of the family allowance varies depending on the beneficiary's situation, e.g. it is higher if there are more children, if the beneficiary is a single parent or in the case of disability. 
Another type of support granted on the basis of a subjective right is maternity support, which is a one-off payment offered when the child is born.
In 2015 we introduced the family housing subsidy, which is available for purchasing or building a new house or flat and also for purchasing and enlarging used apartments. Basically the amount of the subsidy depends on the number of children. As of 1 January 2016 families that are currently raising three or more children, or that undertake to raise at least three children in future (including the children they already have) may uniformly receive a one-off in-cash support of 10 million HUF when building or buying a new house or flat. In addition the mentioned families are eligible to another HUF 10 million residential loan with a State interest-rate subsidy. 
Another basic condition for creating a financially firm background for the family is the individuals’ stable labour market status.  The Job Protection Action Plan intends to incentivise employers to use female labour force. Within its framework employers are eligible for contribution allowance in case they employ individuals who belong to the most vulnerable groups: individuals above the age of 55 or under the age of 25 or women with young children. 
A conceptual transformation of the children’s daycare services aims to abolish the regional inequalities in the country and build a new, flexible, multi-stage and multi-actor system. The new daycare system of children under the age of 3 will be launched next year and it will be more demand-driven, differentiated and gives the families and the settlements opportunity to choose among the new forms of daycare services which are nursery, mini-nursery, in-office nursery, family nursery. The Hungarian government’s goal is to increase further the number of daycare places available for children under the age of 3 by 30%. 
Since 2011, through calls for tenders and individual supports the Ministry of Human Capacities  has involved social actors in the popularisation of a family-friendly approach. Thanks to the building of families’ communities, communication campaigns, cooperation with the media the family-friendly public thinking received more attention. We introduced the family friendly work place award, implemented national campaigns about the role of fathers and about the importance of siblings. We created a Family friendly country brand and started an online site called csalad.hu which means family.hu. 
The changes of the Hungarian demographic indicators that have taken place in the recent years are encouraging despite the fact that  between the years 2010 and 2015 the number of women or couples in a fertile age decreased by 12%. Parallel with this the employment rate also increased, while in 2010 3 million and 700 thousand people had worked, now 4 million and 3 thousand is the number of employees. Especially the employment rate of women increased significantly by 10%. 
 
The goal of the government has been to improve the state, the physical, mental wellbeing and the security of families by different measures and to develop the local environment also in order to make them more and more family-friendly. 
We mustn’t forget young people as hopeful founders of future families. They need to be prepared for family life so we integrated the education for family life into the school curriculum and we also support NGOs and church nonformal training programs for the same purpose. 
The older generations of our parents or grandparents are also in our hearts and we also consider them as integral part of our family friendly strivings. We respect their  achievements and sacrifices and we promote the intergenerational solidarity and cooperation within the family and in all the society. 
Finally let me cite from the preamble of our law on the protection of families:
 
„Family protection and the reinforcement of family welfare is a task shared by the State, local governments, churches, non-governmental organisations, media providers, and businesses.” 
 
I hope that  this wide cooperation will be even stronger in Hungary and internationally in the near future.  
 
Thank you for your attention.