“The wealth of the poor is represented by their children, that of the rich – by parents,” wrote the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jeacques Rousseau. Over three centuries later, the second part of the wise aphorism has certainly remain the same, whereas we cannot say the same about the first. A child has a cost, so much so that in many cases, the birth of a baby aggravates the condition of poverty. A Federconsumatori Observatory research shows that raising a child till adulthood, costs 170 thousand euros on average, that is, about 11 thousand euros per year, with a heavier impact during the first year of life: at least 13 thousand euros per year. Birth rate in Europe has the negative world record, following Japan. Whereas Germany has exceeded even the Japanese State as to birth rate decrease. Demographic decline is accompanied by a serious and irreparable economic and financial crisis, a sign that Rousseau’s wisdom was not only moral.
Nonetheless, there are European countries that still rely on the richness of its offspring and invest in new births because children are a society’s wealth. Hungary, for instance. Viktor Orban’s government has allocated 32 thousand euros and a loan (same amount) for the families that decide to bring a third child into this world. On condition that both parents work full-time, they will receive the bonus as soon as their child turns six months. Besides, in localities where at least five families request it, services for children, such as nurseries, will be activated within a year of the request.
In the Hungarian Republic, family policies are not chatter for the purpose of electoral propaganda and ancient aphorisms become an amazing reality. Yet, they do not get media acclaim. The interventions in favor of life, family, and population growth promoted by Prime Minister Orban – who has also introduced protection of life from conception to death into the Constitution – provoked a strong reaction of the local press. Perhaps, the reason for it is that the Prime Minister, who is a Catholic from the European People’s Party, has opposed the “big powers” of international finance and made their Central Bank independent.
Under his rule, the number of marriages has increased (by about 10% over the last two years), whereas the number of divorces and abortions fell by 20%. And the national economy, which was in a serious crisis at the time of the last presidential elections, has improved.
In 2011, a book was published in Italy, edited by experts of the Cultural Project of the Catholic Church: Demographic Change (Laterza, 2011). It explores the natural link between ethics and economics; whereas the first one concerns the rules of conduct in society, the second deals with the management of our “common home”. Without children, fixed costs and taxes grow, diminish the resources, there is no work and scarce services.
Hungary is predominantly Catholic. Two thirds of its population are Christian, followed by Calvinists, Lutherans, and Protestants belonging to different churches, the Orthodox, and believers of other religions. Yet, the value of the family is not only religious. On AuPair.com, two young Hungarian spouses under 35 – who “live in a big house near Budapest, on Danube together with their three children aged 4, 3, and a newborn, and who “declare themselves” to be “atheists/agnostics” – are looking for a babysitter to allow the woman to resume work. The financial aid allocated by the Orban government is certainly effective. It is a model of civilization.
In States where constant decrease of the birth rate is registered, there is also a rampant economic, political, and social crisis. According to some experts, this would be the reason of the German decline. “More children or more immigration”, is the slogan of the economist Stephan Sievert from the Institute for Population and Development in Berlin. Hence, immigration is not a problem, but a solution.
In Italian, the word family is a leitmotiv used to cover up the dramatic void of policies in support of the families, maternity, and birth. In Italy there is the highest rate of women unemployment, especially among mothers: more than half of them are unemployed, and the numbers are even more disturbing for moms with little children, under six. An OECD study shows that women with an occupation, who have three or more children, are less than 44 percent. The facilities and services for large families are still derisory in Italy, even after the institution of the Family Charter in the Stability Law of 2016, which provides transport, sport, and culture discounts and tariff reductions for families with at least three minor children. The allowance for the third child paid by the National Social Insurance Agency in Italy was only of € 1,836.90 per year (less than a monthly salary in Hungary). Besides, it is reserved for families with at least one parent and at least three children all minors, both to Italian citizens and immigrants who are permanent residents, with a minimum income established by the new 2016 Equivalent Financial Situation Index, based on new criteria which will further lower the threshold. Birth incentives are entirely absent. On the contrary, the birth rate is discouraged both culturally and by active policies. A slap in the face of the nation that hosts the Holy See and has pioneered the rights of the family in the Constitution.
The Parish of Staggia Senese, in the municipality of Poggibonsi, Val d’Elsa, has allocated its own “third baby bonus,” of two thousand euros: “concrete help at times of crisis, to the families that bravely accepted the gift of a child.” Italy has got a little over one million of such “brave” families with three children.