Warnings of a demographic threat have been periodically issued in Israel in recent years. This time, however, the concerns are not of the risk of an Arab majority but rather, of extreme over-population… in the Jewish sector of the population!
The demographer, Yakov Faitelson has conducted a study which refutes these fears. Here are the main findings:
- The changes in the Jewish population’s overall fertility in the State of Israel have been characterized by an interesting phenomenon. Although the overall rate of fertility among Haredim has declined during the last 15 years, the overall Jewish fertility rate has increased. This can be explained by a rise in overall fertility among secular Jews. As of 2016, the official rate of overall Jewish fertility stood at 3.16 children per woman, compared to 2.53 in 2001.
- Since 1960, there has been an increase in the ratio between the population aged 65 and upwards and that of working age (15-64), both in Israel and in the other member countries of the OECD.
The significance of this change is a growth of the aging population in relation to the productive population.
- From 2020, this ratio in Israel is expected to be the lowest of all OECD member countries.
- Israel’s population is younger than that of most OECD member countries. According to the organization’s official forecast, Israel is expected to have the largest population in the 20-34 age group of all OECD member countries by 2050.
- Continued growth in the overall fertility in Israel will indeed lead to an increase in population density, an increase that can nevertheless be combatted with prudent policy capable of encompassing the growing population.
- The study reveals that it is specifically those densely populated cities that frequently possess high standards of living. For example, Bnei Brak – Israel’s most densely populated city – is in fourth place in standard of living while Beersheba, the city with the lowest level of population density, is graded in only 12th place (of Israel’s 14 largest cities).
- In recent years, Israel is in 19th place in the HDI (Human Development Index) after countries with a much higher population density – Singapore (in 6th place) and South Korea (18th).
- Furthermore, a rapid growth in the population can lead to economic growth as demonstrated by countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and others.
- The best response to population density is prudent policy that invests in development of infrastructure and technologies aimed at the efficient running of crowded cities.
- The growth in the population of the Jewish state will not continue unabated and, like the world’s other countries, Israel too will reach a stage of sustainable equilibrium at which the size of the population will gradually adjust itself to the ecological niche’s capability to supply the population’s physical needs.
- Until then, it can be expected with a reasonable degree of certainty that Israel may benefit from its increased population and resultant economic growth.