In demographic terms, Israel is a unique country: it is characterized by an unusual combination of high fertility rates, low mortality rates, and positive migration. All of these factors lead to a rapid rise in population.
Mortality rates have been decreasing over the past decade in every population group and in almost every age group (until age 89) – an indication of an overall improvement in the health of the population.
- Among Jews, the decline in mortality rates among men is greater than among women in every age group under age 55.
- Mortality rates among Arab Israelis – both for men and women – have decreased less than among the Jewish population in most age groups.
The number of births in Israel is very high relative to mortality rates and in comparison to other developed countries, and explains about 80% of the annual population growth.
- Trends from 2000 are expected to continue: a decline in fertility among Jewish women up to age 25, stability in the rate in women aged 25-29, and a marked increase in the rate among those aged 30-44 (with a slowdown in the rate of increase).
- In the 35 to 39-year-old age group, fertility rates are expected to rise as women’s age at first birth increases, pushing subsequent births to older ages. An increasing number of these women will be single parents.
- Among Arab Israelis, it is predicted that the decline in fertility rates observed since 2000 will continue, though at a slower pace.
- Relative stability is expected in the overall fertility rate of the Jewish population in the coming decade, followed by a slight decline – by 2030 the total fertility rate is expected to be below 3 children on average per woman.
- At the same time, a decline in overall fertility is expected in the Arab Israeli population – by 2040, the total fertility rate in Arab Israeli society is expected to be 2.75 children per woman, on average.
- Due to changes in the number of births over the last 20 years, the number of Arab Israeli women aged 20 in 2037 is likely to be the same as the number in 2017, while the number of Jewish women is likely to be much higher than their number in 2017.
The overall migration balance in Israel is positive and rising. Over the past few decades Israel has also become an attractive destination for labor migrants and asylum seekers.
- Between 2002 and 2017, 184,000 net people immigrated to Israel, the vast majority below the age of 40.
- Given the 20% rise in immigration in 2019, it is reasonable to assume that the flow of immigration will continue to be greater than the emigration rate.
Population age structure
Israel’s current population is relatively young, both in the Jewish and the Arab sector: In the Jewish sector there are 140,000 infants versus 60,000 70-year-olds, and in the Arab Israeli sector, 42,000 versus only 5,300, respectively. In both sectors, there are more men among younger people, and more women among older age groups. However, there are three essential differences in the population structure between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
- Putting aside the effects of migration, the Jewish population has grown slowly but consistently, while among Arab Israelis a significant decline in fertility since 2000 has made younger cohorts similar in size.
- In the Jewish population the age structure has predictable waves and dips every 30 years, while among Arab Israelis the structure has remained relatively stable.
- Among Jews, 8% of men and more than 10% of women were over the age of 70 in 2017. Among Arab Israeli men and women, the equivalent shares were 2.5% and almost 3.5%.
Projections for 2040
The Taub Center study makes the following forecasts of Israel’s population by 2040 using a range of realistic assumptions regarding future fertility, mortality and migration patterns.
- The country’s population is projected to reach between 12.4 and 12.8 million people in 2040.
- The proportion of the population that is Jewish/other is expected to fall to 78%, where it will stabilize.
- A substantial increase in the number of over 70-year-olds is expected – from 669,000 in 2017 to about 1.41 million in 2040, with a higher rate of aging in the Arab Israeli sector.
- In the Jewish sector, the number of births will grow at a decreasing rate during the 2020s because of the lower number of Jewish women in their early to mid-twenties (relative to those aged 30-34). By 2030, the number of births will increase sharply as a large number of women reach childbearing age. Though the fertility rate is declining in the Arab sector, large age groups have begun to enter peak fertility ages, which is likely to generate a notable rise in the number of births in the sector. Together, these two population dynamics will change the ratio of Jewish:Arab births, first reducing it, then increasing it to its current level.
- A large group of people will age into their 50s in the next two decades – a high point for individual productivity and income, and therefore tax income and consumption for the state.
- There is a large group of 5 to 19-year-olds who will be entering the labor market and institutions of higher education in the coming years, much larger than the group that entered these institutions in the last 15 years.
Given the above projections, appropriate measures should be taken to integrate large numbers into higher education and the labor market; preparations should be made for old-age pensions and long-term care services; and timing investment into the education system is imperative. Understanding future growth patterns for each segment of the population will help policy planning for growing populations in Israel.