Hungary believes it is able to embark on a course of growth and to become a rejuvenated nation by relying on its own resources, the Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs of the Ministry of Human Capacities said at the conference Shift Towards a Family-Friendly Europe on Monday in Budapest.

At the opening of the two-day conference organised by the Maria Kopp Institute for Demography and Families and the Three Princes, Three Princesses Foundation, Katalin Novák said it is becoming an ever more serious problem that society is ageing, and young people do not have enough children, or do not have as many children as they would like.

Since 2010 Hungary has sought to respond to this problem by supporting families and adopting a family-friendly approach manifested in every area of governance because Hungary believes it is possible to gain in strength and to grow by relying on its own resources, the Minister of State highlighted.

She said today Hungary is spending twice as much on family support as it did in 2010, and is at the forefront with its 4.8 per cent to GDP family support expenditure.

Hungarian family policy is about freedom of choice: everyone is free to decide whether to establish a family, and if so when they wish to start, how many children they would like to have, and whether they choose to become full-time mothers or fathers or return to work, Mrs Novák said. She added that it is also thanks to this approach that the number of children born and marriages contracted last year had not been this high for 20 years.

In reference to migration, Mrs Novák said Europe is at a crossroads. Western Europe seeks to address the problem of demography with simple solutions which only offer short-term success, but convey catastrophic consequences in the long run. Hungary has a long-term approach and opts for the more difficult path, as a result of which, however, Europe could become an economically strong, rejuvenated continent.

At the European parliamentary elections on 26 May people can also decide which path Europe should take, the Minister of State observed.

Polish Deputy Minister for Family Affairs Kazimierz Kuberski started his address by stating that the government of his country came to the same conclusions, and regards the improvement of Poland’s demographic situation as a primary goal.

He highlighted that in this process helping families is the most important task. The Polish politician, too, took the view that the majority of families living in his country plan to have several children, but often, already upon the planning or birth of the first child, they come up against expenses which discourage them from having further children.

Therefore, the Polish government seeks to encourage the establishment of families with several measures: this is why they introduced regular financial support available for every child, they seek to reduce extreme poverty, and provide a number of benefits for parents deciding to have three or more children.

Radka Maxová, a member of the upper house of the Czech Parliament said in reference to surveys conducted in her country that living standards and financial opportunities are decisive factors in the establishment of families. The politician said women in her society typically delay the birth of the first child so far that they often have no time to have further children.

She stressed that the Czech government offers family support opportunities to every social stratum and generation. Radka Maxová mentioned as an example the new state-subsidised credit programme which seeks to offer young people access to housing.