Common wisdom holds that one of the reasons for the relative popularity of the late Kádár regime was the communists leaders’ decision to leave people’s private lives alone. They didn’t particularly care, as long as it was not political, what people did at home. They let them work on their weekend houses while they tried to make sure that living standards grew steadily if modestly.
The Orbán regime, although in many respects following in the footsteps of the government in power prior to 1990, seems to have overlooked this key element of the Kádár experience. They want to reshape the very thinking of Hungarians to embrace the value system that Fidesz and the Christian Democrats tout. Hungarian right-wing politicians value the love of country above all. Citizens should place the interest of the community over and above their individual welfare. They should marry, preferably in a church ceremony. And they should have large families. The leading lights of Fidesz are role models in this regard. Four or five children seem to be the norm.
I suspect that the decision to produce large families has ideological roots and is not based solely on demographic considerations. I’m pretty sure that the fear so often voiced that Hungarians will one day disappear from the face of the earth is real as far as they are concerned. The high birthrate of the Roma population is also an added incentive. To their way of thinking the birthrate of Gypsies should be reduced somehow while “true” Hungarians, especially members of the middle class, should have many children. In this way, the Hungarian nation’s future will not only be assured but will also be more glorious: the “smarter” people will produce a smarter population.
I know all this sounds pretty crass, but I’m almost certain that such thoughts are not far from many Fidesz politicians’ thinking. Government policy reinforces this ideology. It’s enough here to think of the very large tax benefits for higher income people with many children.
Now it seems that a new scheme is under consideration to promote the Hungarian birthrate. The instrument is the pension system. The size of an individual’s pension would depend on the number of children he or she had. The number of children in the calculation could be so drastic that two people holding identical jobs with identical salaries could end up with grossly different monthly stipends. Someone without children could receive half of what another person in the same category but who was fruitful and multiplied would get.
This brilliant idea comes from József and Katalin Botos, university professors, who maintain that the members of the current generation of child-bearing age with children should receive higher pensions because they contributed to producing offspring on whose contributions the current structure of old-age pension rests. There are some officials in the Ministry of National Economy who would go so far as to deprive childless people of pensions altogether.
The system submitted by Botos & Botos is based on a scale that would reward people on the basis of the size of the family. They made some calculations based on the 2010 economic data that illustrated the results of their system.
In 2010 the average gross income in Hungary was 213,000 forints and the net 139,000. After forty years of employment a person would receive 14.4 points, but only if he or she had two children. In the case of three children there would be an additional 2.2 points, while after four children the parents would each receive 3.5 extra points.
On the other hand, if there is only one child in the family husband and wife would each receive 3.7 points fewer and if they they didn’t manage to produce a child at all each would be docked 5.5 points. What would that mean in forints? Calculated on the basis of the average pension of 114,000 (2010), a childless pensioner would receive a 70,000 monthly pension while someone with four children would get 142,00 forints.
Of course, this is nonsense but I wouldn’t count on the Orbán government to discard the idea. It seems to fit in nicely with the general attitude of this government concerning family and procreation. The only good thing is that Botos & Botos suggest that their system should be introduced for those who will draw their first checks as pensioners after 2032. So, it would be applicable only to those who are now forty-five years old or younger. I wish those 44-year-old women the best of luck in their efforts to receive a few more forints as pensioners in twenty years.
There is one more good thing about this date. By that time, I hope, Orbán and his college friends will be only a bad dream.