Archive for June 5th, 2008

Hungarian Family Policy

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I haven’t been able to find a website with this data on it, so I am going by what people have told me. The Hungarian national government has the following pro-family policies to encourage more people to have more children.

  • When having a child, a woman can leave the workforce and return to her job any time in the three years that follow (employer must take her back).
  • In the first few months, the national government will compensate the mother with 100% of her normal work wages while taking care of the new baby.
  • For the duration of the three years, the national government will compensate the mother with 70% of her normal work wages.
  • Free nationwide nursery school, daytime baby-sitting.
  • Free healthcare (naturally)
  • There is a “third child” bonus that I have heard of, but have not had it described in detail.
  • As a family of five, we get a 90% discount (yes! we only pay 10%) for any public transit travel.
  • All education up to and including university is free.

Compare this to the US.

  • No outside support whatsoever, and only spotty, expensive coverage by insurance of childbirth costs.
  • Projected costs to educate our three kids in the future runs to over $1 million if they attend private schools like their father did. Even if they go to public universities like the University of California system, the cost will still be over $300,000.

Results?

Hungary is losing population faster than any other European country. The US is gaining population faster than any other developed country.

Why do I think these results have happened? In general, though the cost of having children is enormously higher in the US, Americans have a more positive view of the future. American families think that their children will have good opportunities and a good life, and hence have more children.

One of the reasons Hungary’s outlook is more negative is the financial burden of supporting all of the programs outlined above. These social programs are expensive and need to be paid for, creating an enormous tax burden for the working population. Women who become mothers have a strong incentive to leave the workforce for six years (if they have two children). The programs are part of a larger social welfare system that produces the opposite effect it was designed for.

In general, my experience here is hardening the conversion to conservative/libertarian policies that I experienced when I lived in Prague and Moscow in the early 90’s. While I strongly support single-payer health care such as Canada has, I am otherwise in favor of a low-tax, lassie faire system of government.