Hungarians expect Brussels to set aside political debates
Europeans would stop population decline with the encouragement to have children and not by the resettlement of migrants
Although the institution of the family has been a pillar of European societies for a millennium, today, the radical left is increasingly seeking to question the importance of family and having children by promoting mass migration and the idea of open society. To this end, Commissioner for Home Affairs in Brussels Ylva Johansson said that in her view, there is a need for an immigrant workforce, as European society ages. The analysis based on the research of Project Europe conducted by Századvég examined how Europeans (EU + UK) view the importance of family and establishing a family, the solution of the problems caused by population decline and public support for having children. The survey shows that, despite the efforts of Brussels and the radical left, the vast majority of European citizens are still committed to the institution of the family and do not consider migration to be a solution to demographic difficulties.
Public support for families is important
The research shows that there is a consensus across Europe on the importance of the institution of the family. Ninety-one percent of European and 96 percent of V4 respondents think that the family plays an important role in their lives. In contrast, 7 percent of Europeans and 3 percent of V4 respondents took a different view. Examining the differences between countries, it can be stated that family is important for the vast majority of the respondents in all countries. Interestingly, the proportion of those marking the answer “very important” is the highest (90 percent) in Hungary among the surveyed countries, followed by Malta (82 percent) and Portugal (81 percent). In contrast, the proportion of those for whom family is not important is the highest (13 percent) in the Netherlands, Finland (11 percent) and France (10 percent).
The supporting role of the state is an essential issue in terms of establishing a family and promoting the well-being of families. The survey shows that 81 percent of European respondents consider state support for families important, while this proportion is 90 percent among the respondents of the Visegrad countries. The proportion of those who consider state support for families essential is the highest in Greece (76 percent), Hungary (75 percent) and Slovakia (71 percent), while it is the lowest in Denmark (16 percent), the Netherlands (18 percent) and the United Kingdom (21 percent). It is important to note that since 2010, Hungary has been paying special attention to the protection of families and the traditional family model, as well as to the encouragement of having children. Thus, the government’s family policy objectives meet the expectations of Hungarian society.
Europeans support childbearing instead of immigration
Population decline and the response to the challenges posed by the economic difficulties related thereto (such as labour shortages) have been a major public debate in Europe for years. Brussels, as well as some Western European political leaders, see the encouragement of immigration as a solution to these problems. However, the research reveals that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of European respondents and more than three-quarters (78 percent) of the citizens of the Visegrad cooperation prefer to rely on internal resources or the support of local families over migration. Examining the issue by country, the proportion of those who agree with facilitating the situation of families instead of encouraging immigration is the highest in Hungary (91 percent), Latvia (90 percent) and Bulgaria (90 percent). It is important to point out that, among the 28 countries surveyed, it is only Luxembourg where the proportion of those who agree with the above statement does not exceed 50 percent. However, this country can also be said to have a relative majority of respondents (47 percent) who see family support as the key to solving the emerging challenges instead of immigration.
The survey specifically examined Europeans’ views on tackling the challenges posed by demographic changes. The results show that the majority of European respondents (57 percent) and almost three-quarters (74 and 72 percent) of the respondents from the former socialist countries and the V4 countries believe that population decline should be stopped by increasing the childbirth numbers and not by encouraging immigration. Examining the differences between countries, it can be said that the proportion of those who support the promotion of having children instead of migration is the highest in Hungary (89 percent), followed by Bulgaria (88 percent) and Latvia (84 percent). However, a relative majority of Irish and British respondents (40 and 38 percent) see the encouragement of immigration as the solution to stopping population decline.
The research also covered population attitudes to the ideal number of children. It can be stated that 87 percent of Europeans want to have at least one child, compared to only 5 percent of those who envision the ideal family without a child. It is important to emphasize that the willingness to have children is higher among the citizens of the former socialist countries (92 percent) and of the Visegrad cooperation (91 percent) than the European average. The proportion of those who prefer the childless family model is the lowest in Hungary (1 percent), Slovakia (1 percent) and Bulgaria (1 percent), while it is the highest in Germany and Finland (8 percent in both countries).
A key issue for establishing a family is to enable young people to create the necessary conditions for having children in good time. In this context, the research points out that a relative majority of European respondents (50 percent) and more than two-thirds of the respondents in the former socialist countries and the Visegrad countries (70 percent and 69 percent, respectively) believe that young people should be helped to have children as soon as possible. The proportion of those who support promoting young people to have children as soon as possible is the highest in Hungary (88 percent), Slovenia (84 percent) and Slovakia (81 percent). In light of this, it can be stated that the outstanding family-centredness of Hungarian society is not only manifested in the fact that Hungarians – also in European comparison – consider the institution of the family extremely important, but in considering the active involvement of the state an essential fact in order to have as many children as possible in Hungary. In contrast, 67 percent of British, 65 percent of Dutch and 60 percent of Swedish respondents do not approve of the support of young people with the aim of having a child as soon as possible.
The Project Europe research
In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion poll survey covering all 28 European Union Member States, with the aim to analyse the opinions of EU citizens regarding the issues that most affect the future of the EU. In a unique way, Project28 conducted the widest possible survey of 1,000, that is a total of 28,000 randomly selected adults in each country. Gaining an understanding of society’s sense of prosperity and mapping the population’s attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and the increasing terrorism were among the most important goals of the analysis. The Századvég Foundation, on behalf of the Hungarian Government, conducted the research again in 2017, 2018 and 2019, which continued to reflect on the topics that most determined the European political and social discourse.
In 2020, the survey, now called the Project Europe, will continue, with the aim of mapping the population’s attitude towards the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to society’s sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union and the attitudes towards the migration crisis, in line with the latest challenges affecting Europe, the dominant theme of this year’s poll is the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and anti-Semitism. In addition to the European Union Member States, the 2020 research covered the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, interviewing a total of 30,000 randomly selected adults using the CATI method.