Israeli Demography Expert Refutes Claim That Baby Boom Is Bad for Jewish State’s Economy


Yoram EttingerBy R. Blum

Israel’s population explosion is cause for economic optimism, not woe, says the author of several studies on the demographic make-up of and forecast for the Jewish state.

Responding to a report in i24 News on Saturday, according to which Israel’s “baby boom” spells bad news for the tiny country, Yoram Ettinger toldThe Algemeiner on Sunday that he is not surprised the doomsayers who used to predict Israeli’s downfall due to the Jewish-Arab birthrate ratio are now using evidence that disproves their theories to reach equally bleak conclusions.

“It is crucial to note that the trend of Jewish fertility is higher than that of Arab fertility,” said Ettinger, a consultant on U.S.-Israel relations and chairman of special projects at the Ariel Center for Policy Research. “In addition, among Jews in Israel, ultra-Orthodox fertility is decreasing, while secular fertility is exploding.”

Citing statistics released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), showing that Israel’s birthrate is the highest among developed countries – with more than three children per mother – the article asserts that Israel is headed for disaster.

“The effect on the Israeli economy is growing, mostly spurred by Arab women who are encouraged to stay at home with their families and ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who devote their lives to studying the Torah rather than work,” it claims, and quotes President Reuven Rivlin recently stating that “from an economic viewpoint, the current reality is not viable.”

In addition, “CBS demographer Ari Paltiel told Reuters that Israel ‘would go bankrupt’ unless the levels of employment and contributions to social security funds were changed.”

Ettinger disagrees.

Israel is the only advanced economy endowed with a fertility rate above three babies per woman. All the others – with the exception of the U.S., which has a rate of about 2.1 babies per woman — have a rate below two babies per woman. This means that all other advanced economies will have fewer people in a generation than they have today, unless they import a very significant percentage of their population from Third World countries – something that may not be a proper response to economic needs, and certainly would aggravate social and homeland-security problems which could become lethal.

Israel will have a sufficient number of working hands through its own fertility rate to manage a growing and expanding economy. On top of that, the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel is increasingly and rapidly integrating into the economic and academic sectors, which has dramatically enhanced its contribution to the country’s economy.

Furthermore, Israel does have sufficient space to handle the growth-driven rise in the number of people. For instance, buildings having 25-35 stories could be erected, as opposed to the current situation, in which most do not exceed eight floors. That potentially would more than double the potential area for population in the country.

The bottom line, said Ettinger, is that Israel is “a high-tech-driven economy with a population growth that is not only quantitative but qualitative – and this constitutes the most important engine of economic and national-security growth, due to the simple fact that there will be many more intelligent people to fill important positions. Either way, a significant population growth, both by fertility and net immigration – where immigration exceeds emigration — is a phenomenon that provides Israel with an added element of deterrence when it comes to its neighbors who hope to achieve an Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

The Algemeiner

{ Israel}