Eastern European Countries Attempt To Boost Birthrate With Monetary Incentives

A 4-day-old newborn baby, who has been placed among empty baby beds by the photographer, lies in a baby bed in the maternity ward of a hospital.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Hungary and Poland have joined the list of countries that pay their citizens to have more babies, reported The Guardian. Falling birthrates have led to projections of shrinking populations, which has several countries asking whether people will accept payment for having children.

In Hungary, IVF clinics are nationalized, couples receive generous loans for agreeing to conceive imminently, and people with four or more children are granted income tax exemption. Recently, women with three or more children were also granted the income tax exemption. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spends about 5 percent of the country’s GDP on the baby policies.

Hungary’s fertility rate is currently well below the level of 2.1, which is required to maintain population levels. In 2011, it was as low as 1.23.

The various governmental incentives for couples to conceive also include upfront loans. One loan provides 10 million forint ($33,000) to young married couples, with the stipulation that every time the couple has a baby, payments are deferred. If the couple has three children within a predetermined time frame, the entire loan is written off. For couples who don’t meet the required three children minimum in the time frame, they must pay back the entire loan.

Many couples have benefited greatly from the baby loan, including Bettina, a 32-year-old teaching assistant from the village of Mágocs. Bettina and her husband took out a loan soon after marrying that stipulated that they must have two children within a six-year period.

“The loan is brilliant. If it wasn’t for this help then we would have to live with one of our parents, or in terrible conditions,” Bettina explained, per The Guardian.

A mom kisses her baby.
  Ana Tablas / Unsplash

Bettina also admitted that while the loan is incredibly helpful, as the second-baby deadline approaches, they are starting to feel the pressure.

Erika Simonics, the director of a kindergarten in Mágocs, commented that if there is monetary support available for families, they will be incentivized to have more children. She estimates that around 90 percent of the school’s attendees have a family support loan.

In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party implemented the 500+ policy in 2016, which gave mothers a monthly allowance of 500 złoty ($130) per child from the second child onward. Last year, the policy was expanded to eliminate the minimum number of children.

In central and eastern Europe, fertility rates have been consistently dropping. The numbers have been largely affected by mass migrations of people to western countries in search of work.

Italy, Greece, and Russia are other European countries that have implemented baby bonuses and loans to incentivize reproduction.