Hungary will offer mothers who have at least four children a lifetime exemption from income tax in a bid to boost birth rates, the nation’s anti-immigration prime minister has announced.
Viktor Orban said the measures were being introduced to reverse population decline without relying on new migrants coming to the country.
Making his state of the nation address on Sunday, Mr Orban revealed the government would offer a range of benefits, including a subsidy of 2.5m forints (£6,850) towards seven-seater vehicles for families with three or more children.
Women under the age of 40 who are marrying for the first time would be eligible for a low-interest loan of 10m forints (£28,000).
Mr Orban, who has made his “zero tolerance” stance on immigration a key policy in recent years, said the initiative was designed to “ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation”.
“There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe. For the west, the answer [to this problem] is immigration,” the prime minister said. “For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine.”
“But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children. This is the Hungarians’ answer, not immigration.”
There was no immediate government estimate for the cost of the new measures.
Mr Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said on Friday new spending would be financed from general reserves or surplus revenues in the 2019 budget.
The prime minister also used the speech to kickstart his right-wing Fidesz party’s European parliament election campaign, repeating his regular assertion that the European Union wants to fill the continent with migrants, mainly from Muslim backgrounds.
“We have to understand that the European peoples have come to a historical crossroads,” Mr Orban said.
“Those who decide in favour of immigration and migrants, no matter why they do so, are in fact creating a country with a mixed population.”
Europe’s left wing has become “the gravedigger of nations, the family and the Christian way of life”, he claimed.
Fidesz and Mr Orban approach both European parliament and local government elections this year, following large protests in Hungary against the premier’s rule.
Demonstrations were sparked by the passage of laws in December allowing employers to ask for up to 400 hours of overtime per year, and the creation of new administrative courts that will answer to the government and oversee sensitive issues.
But despite protests, the ruling party appears to remain well ahead of its rivals, with several recent opinion polls estimating it stands to win close to 40 per cent of the popular vote.
Additional reporting by agencies
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies