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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Hungary Population Trends 2007

The Hungarian Statistical Office have just issued the latest edition of Hungary vital events:

In the first six months of 2007 there were fewer live births and more deaths compared to the same period of the previous year. Remarkably fewer couples got married than one year before. According to the preliminary data 46 718 children were born, 67 138 inhabitants died and 16 830 couples got married. The degree of natural decrease was higher than in January–June 2006. The population size of the country was estimated to be 10 055 thousands at the end of the period.

In fact in the same period of 2006 there were 48,149 births and 66,411 deaths, which just shows that it is a mistake here to judge the numbers year by year.

If we look at the figures since the early 1990s the trend is clear.

First off life expectancy. As we can see this has been rising steadily. This is of course very good news, but it is one of the factors which is deeply implicated in the process of population ageing in Hungary, and this ageing is now occuring rapidly. Rising life expectancy also implies, especially since a significant part of the increase is being achieved by extending the outlook for the over 60s, that this is quite expensive, and needs financing, and this is just one more reason why there will be permanent pressure on the health component of the government budget from now on. In fact I commented on some of these issues in this post which I wrote following the death of Ferenc Puskas.

Hungary's median age which is currently 38.9, is now set to rise systematically and rapidly.Now if we turn to births and deaths, well what can I say, the situation is a serious one, since mortality has now long been above natality, and this situation is now structural and deeply embedded. Really quite drastic measures are now needed to do something to reverse this trend. One of these would be pro-natality policies (but these cost money, and money is one of the things which the Hungarian government hasn't exactly got a lot of right now). Anoth would be inward migration, but migrants need - and are attracted by - jobs. And again, given the looming recession which seems to face Hungary, job creation isn't going to be one of Hungary's specialties in the short term. So a difficult situation all round I think. What I would say is that once Hungary pulls out of recession addressing this problem really ought to become the number one national priority.

Finally, and just to confirm the general picture I am presenting, here is the fertility chart for Hungary since 1970. As can be seen, the pattern in Hungary is rather different from many other East European societies in that the fertility decline is long standing, and not consequent on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Indeed Hungary has now been below replacement fertility for nearly thirty years now. A quite remarkable situations, all things considered, and not a happy one. Not at all.

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