Prime Minister Janša at the Budapest Demographic Summit: We need a brave family policy
As statistics show that birth rates in the Western world are declining and that Western societies are growing older, it is our common duty and responsibility to make modern-day demographic challenges a priority. Effective, long-term solutions for individual countries and regions must be found. To that end, the summit opened a wide-ranging discussion with colleagues from a range of Member States and enabled an exchange of good practice in demographic and family policies.
At the Demographic Summit, Prime Minister Janša took part in the panel discussion entitled "Family: The Key to Sustainability", where his fellow speakers included the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, the 48th Vice-President of the United States Mike Pence, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik and the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In his opening statement, Prime Minister Janša said that the European Union was in the middle of discussing the future of Europe. "Today’s meeting is one of the most important events in the discussion about the future of Europe. Demography is one of the EU’s most relevant issues", said Janez Janša, adding: "Due to negative trends, demographic issues are one of the major problems facing Europe as a whole. Right now, there is not a single country in the world that is not affected by demographic issues."
"Demographic issues touch on the questions of healthcare, education, tax policy, business and the economy. We know that without students, there are no schools, without customers, there are no businesses, without consumers, there is no consumption. Everything is about people and human capital", said the Prime Minister. He pointed out that the actual population in many European countries and around the world is decreasing. "Everyone is talking about human capital, which has been an important issue in recent decades, but demography is an issue dealing with the future of our countries and a country cannot exist without people," the Prime Minister said.
"We all know that the decision to have a child is a very personal choice, the same applies to the decision of having one, two or three children. But there are also a lot of young people who would like to have more children but cannot have them, partly because they do not have a job or a place to live, or for many other different factors. We need to make it easier for young people to start families. We need to support the family as the fundamental unit of society: we need to put the families first, since they are the bedrock of the state and a strong society. In strong societies, children are also happier and more likely to succeed in life. So we need to support both children and families," Prime Minister Janez Janša said. He added that both motherhood and fatherhood should be supported.
"Demography has been a problem in Europe for decades. Since 1950, the birth rate in Europe has been in decline. For example, in April this year, the Economist published an article arguing that no European country has enough births to keep its population stable. According to their calculations, we would need a birth rate of 1.6 children per family to maintain a stable population," the Prime Minister said. He pointed out that the birth rate in the US is 1.4%.
The Prime Minister welcomed the European Commission creating the demography and democracy portfolio and a Commissioner in this mandate dealing solely with these issues. "We are still waiting for bold decisions that put the family first," the Prime Minister said.
"I believe that, as debates on the future of Europe are important, we are faced with a very important task at this 4th Demographic Summit, as this Summit is an important part of the discussion on the future of Europe," the Prime Minister said.
He then presented statistics for Slovenia. "Last year, Slovenia had negative natural population growth. The same applies to other European countries. Germany and Finland also have negative natural population growth, meaning these countries have more deaths than births. Italy, Portugal and Greece are also facing a population decline. When economic trends deteriorate, we immediately hold numerous emergency meetings. However, when there is a demographic crisis and the demographic figures are poor, this goes on for years and even decades with hardly anyone noticing," the Prime Minister said.
He highlighted that we also need a braver family policy. "We need to know and acknowledge that the economic circumstances today are significantly better than they were 50 years ago. We also need to be aware that financial issues also have an impact on starting a family, but this is only part of the picture. Starting a family is not only influenced by economic circumstances, but also by the family policies of individual countries," the Prime Minister said. He added that the COVID‑19‑pandemic had negatively affected birth rates.
"As leaders of our countries we need to find the answers to the current important issues and demographic issues are not only a priority but will remain one for the next ten years," said Prime Minister Janša. The Prime Minister thanked the organisers for organising this extremely important discussion, which is "important for both the future of our continent and the world." "The demographic debate is the most important discussion about the present and the future. It is a discussion about our children and our children's children, as well as a discussion on life, family, happiness and love," concluded Prime Minister Janša.
Janez Cigler Kralj, the Slovenian Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, also attended the Budapest Demographic Summit and took part in the panel discussion entitled "Best practices in the fields of demography and family policies".