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Taub Center: Israel's population to soar to 12.8 million by 2040

The population of Israel is expected to rapidly increase from about 9.05 million to about 12.8 million by 2040, according to a new forecast of demographic trends over the next two decades. Published three days before Israel's 72nd Independence Day, the Taub Center study also forecasts the country's elderly population to double during the same period and a continuation of current fertility rate trends.

The annual population growth rate is expected to fall from 1.87% today to 1.52% by 2040, driven by reductions in fertility. Among the forecast population of 12.8 million, the Jewish share of the population will fall slightly from 79% to 77.7%.

According to the study led by Prof. Alex Weinreb, a "substantial increase" in the number of Israelis aged over 70 is expected - more than doubling from 669,000 in 2017 to approximately 1.41 million in 2040. The change is likely to have significant implications for the employment and welfare of Israel's older population.

The rate of aging in the Arab-Israeli sector is forecast to be higher than in the Jewish sector. Among Israel's Jewish population, the number of citizens over the age of 70 is predicted to increase by 88% (from 615,000 to 1.21 million). In the case of Arab-Israelis, the number of elderly citizens is expected to quadruple itself (from 54,000 to 197,000).

A key factor influencing the demographic forecast is fertility rates, with Israel characterized by a very high number of births relative to mortality rates when compared with other developed countries.

During the next two decades, existing fertility rate trends among Jewish women are expected to continue. These include declining fertility among women aged under 25, stable fertility among women aged 25 to 29, and a marked increase among women aged 30 to 44, as women's age at first birth increases alongside single parenting.

The total fertility rate among Jewish women is expected to remain stable over the next decade at approximately 3.15 before falling to between 2.96 and 2.74 in the late 2030s.

While the study does not estimate discrete demographic trajectories for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and non-haredi Jewish population, due to "too much movement across levels of religiosity," fertility rates are much higher in the haredi sector.

Fertility rates among Arab-Israeli women have declined in every age group since 2000, notably among women under 30. The trend is forecast to continue and slow further due to rising higher education levels and increased labor market participation. It is expected that Arab-Israeli women will also delay childbearing until an older age, with a likely increase in fertility among 30-44 year olds.

Total fertility rates among Arab-Israeli women are expected to decrease from 3.14 to between 2.75 and 2.63 by the late 2030s.

While accurate predictions concerning migration are problematic as it may be influenced by external events and individuals may move on several occasions, the overall migration balance in Israel is positive and rising.

A net increase of 184,000 migrants arrived in Israel between 2002 and 2017. As the vast majority were aged under 40 upon their arrival, they were able to contribute economically and to Israel's population through births.

Noting Israel's status as an attractive destination for labor migration, rising antisemitism in the Diaspora and the 20% rise in immigration in 2019, Weinreb assumes that the flow of immigration will continue to exceed emigration. On an annual basis, 20,000 immigrants and returning residents are expected to etner Israel. An additional 1,400 immigrants entering for marriage, work, tourism or seeking asylum will succeed in becoming legal residents,

Turning to the current coronavirus outbreak, Weinreb states that the pandemic is unlikely to have a "large effect" on mortality rates or life expectancy.

"Remember, every year, more than 45,000 people die in Israel, about 17000 of them from heart disease and cancer, so coronavirus is not, on its current trajectory, going to change any of the assumptions used to shape these projections," said Weinreb.

 "What we know so far is that the average age of death is 82, and most of those people have had other serious health conditions. So it’s more an important test for the healthcare system, and for the political class than a demographically significant event in the population. That will be the case even if, God forbid, deaths head into the thousands.”

Eytan Halon