The income per household of kibbutz members surpassed the national average for the first time in a decade in 2004 as more young people see kibbutzim as a viable lifestyle choice, the kibbutz movement said Wednesday.
"Whereas until four or five years ago there was a definite negative population growth, that has all changed in the last two to three years," Gavri Bargil, director general of the kibbutz movement told The Jerusalem Post. "The reasons for this are that not only is the economic situation on the kibbutzim improving but it is showing strong stability."
Part of the turnaround from the crisis days of the 80s and 90s, Bargil explained, resulted from changes that were implemented in most of the kibbutzim, which started to allow and encourage privatizations and change the method of budget distribution to members by linking it to their work.
"That members can now own their homes on the kibbutz has also been a major attraction for young couples," he added.
The changes have been implemented by 160 of the 250 kibbutzim, with the stronger kibbutzim being able to maintain the classical lifestyle, he said.
As a result, the average monthly income per kibbutz member has grown from NIS 9,495 in 2002 to NIS 11,800 in 2004, which was higher than the national average income of NIS 11,220 for that year.
The data, which formed part of the kibbutz movement's annual report, showed that the total economic output of the kibbutzim was NIS 31 billion in 2004, representing a growth of 10.7 percent over the previous year. Some 46 kibbutzim were responsible for 53% of the production, while 48 of the weaker settlements accounted for just 2.4% of production.
Operating profits for the movement rose 14% to NIS 4b. in 2004, while the average profit per member increased 16.2% to NIS 79.
With other economic indicators, such as the movement's ability to finance itself, investments in kibbutz-related industry and its credit payments all showing positive trends in 2004, Bargil stressed that the upward trend had continued over the last two years.
"It is very clear to us that 2004 was not a one-year success and that this is filtering through to the population growth," Bargil said. "We are seeing kibbutznikim who weren't sure whether to become members make that decision now, while many of those who left are coming back."