Polish and Hungarian family policies are engaged “in a noble contest”, they both open up opportunities for the establishment of families and the births of children, Katalin Novák, Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Human Capacities stressed on Wednesday in Warsaw.

The Minister of State attended the expert conference entitled Family policy, motherhood, and looking after young children at the invitation of Polish Minister of Family Affairs, Labour and Social Policy Elzbieta Rafalska.

At the conference, Elzbieta Rafalska conferred the ministerial decoration Primus in Agendo (First in Action) upon Mrs Novák. Earlier, in the hall of the Polish Family Affairs Ministry, the two politicians opened the exhibition ‘Motherhood – Another Dimension’ of the artist Veronika Szabó-Jakatics which was co-organised by the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Warsaw.

Hungarian attendees of the conference – representatives of the Kopp Mária Institute for Demography and Families, the Centre for Single Parents and the National Association of Large Families – introduced the activities of institutions concerned with family affairs in Hungary.

In her introductory address, Mrs Rafalska said in Warsaw they closely follow Hungary’s family policy, look upon its complex nature with great respect, and draw a great deal from Hungarian experience.

Mrs Novák highlighted in her address that Polish and Hungarian family policies are engaged in “a noble contest” and rely upon one another’s experience. In her view, the ever-decreasing number of births throughout Europe also calls for family-friendly governance.

“Statistics which show that Europe’s population is still growing are deceptive as this growth no longer stems from internal resources. […] Immigration is the sole source of population growth,” she pointed out.

The Minister of State highlighted that Polish and Hungarian societies are traditionally family-centred. This, in her view, is also true of young generations, even if young people “have fewer children than they would like”.

In this context, she said “a very grave sin” of the past few decades is that “they tried to make us believe that we do not need children”, that family “is not about love, is not about care, […] is not about trust, is not about a strong community,” but “about domestic violence, conflicts and financial difficulties”.

At the same time, family policy was “reduced to an issue solely manifested in numbers and statistical data, instead of talking about the most important things: cohesion and strength that keep families together, and strong families that constitute the foundations of our societies,” she continued. She also spoke in detail about the changes which have recently taken place in public perception regarding the role of women on the labour market and within the family.

She took the view that women “no longer have the courage to start a family, a large family at a young age,” and the reason for this should be sought in “the approach of the left-liberal elite”. Therefore, beyond financial issues, raising children is also a cultural matter, Mrs Novák said.

In this context she highlighted the importance of policies that are aimed at supporting families. She pointed out that in Hungary since 2010 the government has doubled family expenditures; at present, 4.8 per cent of GDP is used for such purposes.

She outlined the latest Hungarian family policy measures, including the prenatal baby support to be introduced from 1 July, the extension of the care system of nursery schools, the child care allowance for grandparents and the exemption of mothers with four children from the payment of income tax.

As a result of family-centred governance, in the past 20 years the highest numbers of births and marriages were recorded last year, the number of pregnancy terminations decreased by more than 30 per cent, and demographic indicators are moving in the right direction, Mrs Novák said.

Talking to the Hungarian news agency MTI, the Minister of State also mentioned the support provided for single-parent families, pointing out that parents raising their children on their own are eligible for benefits in the housing and car purchase programmes, among others.

She said Polish and Hungarian family policy approaches are similar as they provide opportunities for raising children as well as for the reconciliation of work and family values.

They believe that the form of life an individual chooses is a personal decision; in departure from the left-liberal approach which is based on “very fixed doctrines”, they do not wish to force their ideals upon anyone, Mrs Novák underlined.