As I noted last week, there are three ways to alter demographic balances: immigration, emigration and natural increase. One might ask why Israel should even bother with the third: The Jewish birthrate has been rising steadily while Israeli Arab and Palestinian birthrates are falling, and Israeli Jews already have the highest fertility rate in the Western world – 2.99 children per woman, and 2.6 even excluding the Haredim. So why mess with success?

Yet a Bank of Israel study published in April provides grounds for concern. It found that young families, even middle-class working ones, often struggle to make ends meet, but the government gives such families very little assistance compared to other developed countries. And if this continues, rising fertility could easily reverse: Parents want to be able to provide for their children, so if they feel they can’t do so adequately, they’re likely to have fewer of them.


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