POPULATION OF ISRAEL: GENERAL TRENDS AND INDICATORS

Population Trends: 1948-1993

In early 1994, Israel had a population of approximately 5.3 million: 81.5% Jewish, 14.1% Muslim, 2.7% Christian, and 1.7% Druse and other (Table 1). The main factor in population growth is Jewish immigration from all over the world (Figures 1 and 2). In 1948-51, 687,000 immigrants reached Israel’s shores. Most were survivors of Nazi extermination camps in Europe and members of entire communities that immigrated from the Arab countries in Asia and North Africa.

This mass immigration doubled Israel’s population within less than four years. Smaller but no less important immigration waves arrived in 1955-57, 1961-64, and 1969-74. The population growth increment in these years was in the range of 30-45 per thousand, of which 35-50% was due to the migration balance. The influx of immigrants was much slower at other times and in 1974 settled to a nadir that lasted until the great awakening of 1990-93, when hundreds of thousands of Jews came from the former Soviet Union. This immigration, coupled with stability in natural increase, caused the population growth rate to increase from 17 per thousand in the 1980s, of which immigration contributed only 6%, to 40 per thousand on annual average in 1990-93, two-thirds of it due to the positive migration balance. Emigration from Israel, caused in part by the unsuccessful acculturation of recent immigrants, had a slight but significant impact on the migration balance, offsetting 20% of immigration in 1948-82 and 30% in 1983-92. The rate of natural increase declined, amid fluctuations, from 21.6 per thousand in the late 1950s to 15-17 per thousand in the past decade. The causes of this decrease are changes in the fertility, life expectancy, and age structure of various population groups.

The total fertility rate, i.e., the average number of children a woman may expect to bear in her lifetime, varied between different population groups in the 1950s and the 1960s. While relatively affluent families controlled their fertility level, poor families raised large numbers of children under adverse circumstances. In the 1960s, the total fertility rate was more than 9 among Muslims and only 3.4 among Jews. These disparities narrowed in the 1970s and 1980s. Total fertility decreased not only among Jews of Asian/African origin but also among Christians, Muslims, and Druse, and levelled off somewhat among Jews of European/American origin. Total fertility rates in 1993 were 2.61 among Jews, 4.68 among Muslims, 2.03 among Christians, and 3.76 among Druse and others (Figure 3).

Mortality rates by age cohorts have decreased over the years in all segments of the population. Figure 4 shows the decrease in infant mortality in the past forty years. The life-expectancy tables for 1992 point to life expectancy of 75 years for men and 78.5 for women. The differences in life expectancy among the various population groups – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druse – have almost disappeared. However, substantial differences in mortality rates have come to light (Table 2), as those of Muslims and Druse have fallen to very low levels because of the lower share of elderly persons in these population groups (Table 3). The differences in birth and mortality rates among the various population groups also manifest themselves in disparities in rates of natural increase (Table 2).

Changes in Population Structure

Age Distribution

The age distribution of the Israeli population (Table 3) is a composite of trends in diverse population groups, each of which exhibits different patterns of development. Israel is still one of "youngest" developed countries. At the beginning of 1993, the 0-15 cohort accounted for 30% of its population, as against 32% in the 1970s. The share of the 65+ group rose from 4.7% in 1955 to 8.8% in 1983 (according to the 1983 Population Census) and 9.4% in 1992.

The age distribution of Jews of European origin has been affected by their relatively low fertility, whereas that of Jews of Asian/African origin has been influenced over time by a decrease in their once-high total fertility rate. The current age distribution of Jews is strongly influenced by that of the immigrants of the 1950s and the 1960s. Some 14% of the recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union are elderly, and they have augmented the 65+ age group by nearly 50,000 (more than 10%). Until the 1970s, Muslims and Druse were strongly represented in the young age cohorts because of the high fertility levels of these population groups and the decrease in their infant-mortality rates.

Population Structure by Religious Affiliation

Jews have accounted for a decisive majority of the population ever since the establishment of the state. The immigration wave of 1948-1951 boosted the share of Jews in the population to 89%. This proportion has been decreasing since the 1950s, with a nadir of 81.5% in 1989. The mass immigration that resumed in 1990 elevated the share of Jews in the population to 81.9% only. The share of Muslims rose from 7.5% in 1951 to 14.1% in 1993, because of high natural increase and the annexation of eastern Jerusalem. The proportion of Christians has remained stable over the years, in the vicinity of 2.3%; immigration from the former Soviet Union caused it to rise to 2.7% in 1992. The share of Druse rose from 1% in 1948 to 1.7% in 1993.

Labor-Force Participation

Participation in the civilian labor force (age 15+) increased from 49.6% in 1982 to 52.9% in 1993, mainly because of the rising share of working women. The proportion of labor-force participants among women was 36% in 1982 and 43.4% in 1993; the share of men in the labor force dropped from 63.4% to 62.8% during these years. The general increase in women’s participation was evident in all age groups, especially the 25-54 cohort. The decrease among the men occurred principally among those aged 35 and over. Over the past decade, the total labor force grew from 1.36 million to 1.8 million, 3.1% per year on average as against 2.6% annual average growth of the working-age population. The present wave of immigration has also helped bolster the labor force by contributing 155,000 immigrant members by 1992, of whom 110,000 (70%) were employed, most not in their occupations.

                 Figure 1: Population of Israel, 1949-1993                                (millions) Year                                         Population  1949  ############                                                  1174 1950  ##############                                                1370 1951  ################                                              1578 1952  #################                                             1630 1953  #################                                             1669 1954  ##################                                            1718 1955  ##################                                            1789 1956  ###################                                           1872 1957  ####################                                          1976 1958  #####################                                         2032 1959  #####################                                         2089 1960  ######################                                        2150 1961  #######################                                       2234 1962  ########################                                      2332 1963  #########################                                     2430 1964  ##########################                                    2526 1965  ##########################                                    2598 1966  ###########################                                   2657 1967  ############################                                  2776 1968  #############################                                 2841 1969  ##############################                                2930 1970  ###############################                               3022 1971  ################################                              3121 1972  #################################                             3225 1973  ##################################                            3338 1974  ###################################                           3422 1975  ###################################                           3493 1976  ####################################                          3575 1977  #####################################                         3653 1978  ######################################                        3738 1979  #######################################                       3836 1980  ########################################                      3922 1981  ########################################                      3978 1982  #########################################                     4064 1983  ##########################################                    4119 1984  ##########################################                    4200 1985  ###########################################                   4266 1986  ############################################                  4331 1987  #############################################                 4407 1988  #############################################                 4477 1989  ##############################################                4560 1990  #################################################             4822 1991  ###################################################           5059 1992  ####################################################          5196 1993  ######################################################        5328                    Figure 2: Immigration to Israel: 1948-1993            Year                          Immigrants                      1948  ###########                101,828           1949  ########################   239,954           1950  ##################         170,563           1951  ##################         175,279           1952  ###                         24,610           1953  ##                          11,575           1954  ##                          18,491           1955  ####                        37,528           1956  ######                      56,330           1957  ########                    72,634           1958  ###                         27,290           1959  ###                         23,988           1960  ###                         24,692           1961  #####                       47,735           1962  #######                     61,533           1963  #######                     64,489           1964  ######                      55,036           1965  ####                        31,115           1966  ##                          15,957           1967  ##                          14,469           1968  ###                         20,703           1969  ####                        38,111           1970  ####                        36,750           1971  #####                       41,930           1972  ######                      55,888           1973  ######                      54,886           1974  ####                        31,981           1975  ###                         20,028           1976  ##                          19,754           1977  ###                         21,429           1978  ###                         26,394           1979  ####                        37,222           1980  ###                         20,428           1981  ##                          12,599           1982  ##                          13,723           1983  ##                          16,906           1984  ##                          19,981           1985  ##                          10,642           1986  #                            9,505           1987  ##                          12,965           1988  ##                          13,034           1989  ###                         24,050           1990  ####################       199,516           1991  ##################         176,100           1992  ########                    77,057           1993  ########                    76,805                        Figure 3: Fertility Rate by Population Group, 1955-1993     Year      Total      Jews    Muslims  Christians  Druse and others  1955-59      3.93      3.56      8.17      4.56           7.21 1960-64      3.85      3.39      9.23      4.68           7.49 1965-69      3.83      3.36      9.22      4.26           7.30 1970-74      3.80      3.28      8.47      3.65           7.25 1975-79      3.47      3.00      7.25      3.12           6.93 1980-84      3.13      2.80      5.54      2.41           5.40 1985-89      3.07      2.79      4.70      2.49           4.19 1990         3.02      2.69      4.70      2.57           4.05 1991         2.91      2.58      4.70      2.26           3.70 1992         2.93      2.62      4.65      2.09           3.84 1993         2.92      2.61      4.68      2.03           3.76                       Figure 4: Infant Mortality, 1955-1993                      (Infant Deaths per 1,000 Births)    Year      Total      Jews    Muslims  Christians  Druse and others  1955-59     36.5      32.1      60.6      46.1            54.3 1960-64     29.1      25.3      46.4      42.1            50.4 1965-69     25.5      20.8      43.8      32.7            43.8 1970-74     23.5      18.7      40.1      29.6            33.9 1975-79     18.9      15.0      32.6      20.9            32.1 1980-84     14.4      11.8      23.0      18.0            22.7 1985        11.9       9.8      19.7      13.8            12.9 1986        11.4       9.5      18.0      12.3            15.6 1987        11.1       9.0      17.5      11.5            19.7 1988        10.1       7.6      17.0      10.5            18.7 1989        10.0       8.2      15.0      12.4            13.1 1990         9.9       7.9      15.8       6.0            13.4 1991         9.2       7.2      14.5      11.1            13.9 1992         9.4       7.5      14.2      11.0            18.3 1993         7.8       5.7      13.2       8.5            14.2                      Table 1: Population Growth, 1948-1993  == End  Population  Period   Annual average      Pct. growth      Total  of   (x1000)               per 1,000                       immigration year                        population                       during the                                                                period                            Total   Natural    From     From                          growth  increase   natural  immigra-                                             increase  tion  1948*    805.6                  1948-51  214.5    24.0      13.0      87.0   687,600 1951   1,577.8                  1952-54   29.6    24.5      85.4     14.6     54,700 1954   1,717.8                  1955-64   38.4    20.5      53.3     46.7    471,300 1964   2,525.6                  1965-74   28.0    19.5      69.3     30.7    341,800 1974   3,421.6                  1975-79   19.5    22.9      85.0     14.9    124,800 1979   3,836.2                  1980-84   19.0    17.2      90.6      9.4     83,600 1984   4,199.7                  1985-89   16.4    16.2      98.2      1.8     70,200 1989   4,559.6                  1990-93   23.8    14.8      38.0     62.0    530,200 1993   5,320.0  *May 1948 (estimate)          Table 2: Births, Deaths, and Natural Increase, 1990-1992                        Total      Jews    Muslims  Christians  Druse and                  population                                others      Birth rate        21.7      18.9      37.0      20.3       30.2   Death rate         6.3       7.0       3.3       4.5        3.5   Rate of   natural increase  15.4      11.9      33.7      15.8       26.7            Table 3: Age Groups and Population, 1955-1993 (Pct.)    Year       Total     0-4  5-14  15-24  25-34 35-44 45-64 65-74   75+           population   1955       100.0    14.2  21.1  15.3   14.5  12.6  17.5   3.3    1.4  1965       100.0    11.8  22.6  17.6   12.1  11.5  18.3   4.3    1.8  1975       100.0    12.7  20.2  18.8   13.9   9.7  16.7   5.5    2.4  1985       100.0    11.3  21.2  16.9   15.2  11.3  15.3   5.4    3.5  1993       100.0    10.3  19.6  17.7   14.1  13.1  15.7   5.7    3.7                                     1993  Jews        100.0     9.1  18.4  17.0   13.6  13.9  17.0   6.6    4.3 Muslims     100.0    16.9  25.6  21.9   15.4   8.8   8.8   1.5    1.0 Christians  100.0     9.7  18.7  17.9   18.1  14.3  15.6   3.8    1.9 Druse       100.0    14.0  24.6  22.4   15.9   9.9   9.5   2.2    1.6