Hungary’s demographic slide continues in 2022

Hungary’s demographic slide continues in 2022
Children spending vacation at state-subsidised Ezsebet summer camp at Lake Balaton. /
By Tamas Csonka in Budapest January 30, 2023
Hungary's population stood at an estimated 9.64mn at the end of 2022, down from 9.69mn a year earlier and growth in the fertility rate also reversed, data released by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) on January 27 shows.
The figures are disappointing news for Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, which has for long deemed halting depopulation a priority. The cabinet has taken credit for positive developments in recent years, helped by generous subsidy schemes to families. 
The natural decrease in the population was 47,300 for the year. Excluding the COVID-19 years, this was the second-biggest decline since 1900. The number of births reached 88,400, down 5% from 2021 and the number of deaths fell 13% to 135,700.

The fertility rate slipped to 1.52% from 1.59% in 2021, ending years of growth.

In 2021, the country’s population fell by nearly 60,000, the steepest decline in 145 years as the number of deaths exceeded 150,000, the highest since the end of WWII in 1945.

The death toll from COVID-19 stands at close 49,000, which ranks Hungary among the top five in terms of death per 1mn inhabitants globally.

Hungary's population declined by some 1.2mn in the last four decades and should the current trends continue, the number could drop to 8.5mn by 2040 and to 6mn by 2070, according to experts.

The government has long advocated a "procreation over immigration" approach to deal with demographic decline and introduced a string of measures. Prime Minister Viktor Orban repeatedly said that family support programmes are his government's answer to migration.

A string of family support schemes from state grants to preferential loans to families helped to lift the fertility rate from 1.2% in 2010 to close to 1.6% in 2021. Even if this rate improves, the demographic situation is set to worsen as children of baby boomers (in Hungary they are called the Ratko generation, born between 1945-1953) are now past fertility age.

Population decline is already presenting challenges to the labour market and will put huge pressure on the pay-as-you-go pension scheme.