I had, and still have, some reservations about the multitude of family support schemes the Orbán government has launched over the past few years for the simple reason that other governments in other countries have attempted similar programs in the past, most of which proved ineffective. In fact, Hungary's former communist government initiated comparable policies back in the 1970s - policies that, after a brief three or four-year upsurge in marriages and births, ultimately failed.
The long-term success of the current government's programs depends much on Hungarians' attitudes to marriage. I suspect the communist policies of the past proved fruitless primarily because they did little to address the spiritual malaise underlying the reluctance to marry and have children. Though the incentives the communists provided did motivate people to marry and have children, this motivation proved ephemeral and evaporated the moment the funds ran dry.
In other words, the family support programs the communist government launched did not resonate with people beyond the level of the purely material and was not supported by any metaphysical shift in thinking about the importance of family. The current increase in marriages hinges on one simple and undeniable fact - that contemporary Hungarians approach marriage and child-rearing at a level that is deeper than the material. If the growth in marriages today is sustained by a change in consciousness about what marriage is, then the programs stand a chance. If not, they will inevitably end up being as ineffectual as the communist policies of the past.
Here's hoping the former prevails over the latter.
In any case, the news itself is quite encouraging. Marriages are up 84% since 2010 and more couples tied the knot in 2019 than at any other point in the past thirty years. Even more encouraging is the surprising drop in the divorce rate, which has plummeted 67% since 2010, meaning only about 33% of marriages in Hungary still end in divorce. Granted, 33% is still a high number, but it is a marked improvement on the past and, perhaps more meaningfully, a far lower divorce rate than those found in many other European countries.
Though this marriage boom has yet to lead to a baby boom, the right ingredients for that to happen appear to be in place. True, it's still early days, but one can't help but harbor a little hope that Hungary may be turning a corner - a deeply life-affirming one at that.