The Hungarian state will provide couples with free IVF treatment in a bid to halt the country’s declining birth rate without resorting to immigration.
Announcing the measure, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said that fertility was of “strategic importance” to the Central European state in its fight to boost its population.
“The government has decided that from February 1 medications used in fertility treatment will be free of charge,” said Mr Orban, adding that the cost of “IVF treatment will no longer be market based”.
The move follows a government decision last month to buy six private fertility clinics in a move described by the prime minister as an “acquisition” rather than nationalisation because the clinics had been bought, not taken over.
Although it remains unclear who will qualify for the free treatment, last month Katalin Novak, the Hungarian state secretary for youth and family affairs, said that there were 150,000 couples who want to have children but cannot due to health reasons.
Hungary’s right-wing government has made halting the country’s falling birth rate a priority. Hit by a wave of emigration that removed around one million people between 2008 and 2018, according to the OSCE, and the fact that Hungarians have been having fewer children, Hungary’s population is expected to drop from 9.8 million to 8.3 million by 2050.
But at the same time the government has made a fierce anti-non-European immigration stance a core policy. Saying that he favours “procreation over immigration”, in the past Mr Orban has warned about the apparent folly of using immigration to halt demographic decline.
“If we want Hungarian children instead of immigrants, and if the Hungarian economy can generate the necessary funding, then the only solution is to spend as much of the funds as possible on supporting families and raising children,” the prime minister said while announcing the IVF measures.
He added that his government was also considering the introduction of an income tax exemption for women who have three or more children. Those who have four are already exempt.