The number of immigrants to Israel declined from 31,013 in 2015 to 27,000 in 2016, according to preliminary data the Jewish Agency and the Immigrant Absorption Ministry released on Thursday.
The country that lost the highest number of its Jews to Israel this year was Russia (7,000), compared to 6,600 last year. There was also an increase in people coming from Brazil this year, with the arrival of 760 immigrants, compared with 497 last year.
The number of immigrants from Ukraine and France, however, dropped. Approximately 5,500 Ukrainian immigrants arrived in 2016, compared with 7,221 last year. There were some 5,000 French immigrants this year – 2,900 less than in 2015, when France topped the chart.
The US, another major source of immigration, also saw a slight decrease in immigrants, with 2,900 arrivals in 2016 – 170 fewer than last year.
The number of immigrants from Belarus was 620, compared to 600 last year; 650 from the United Kingdom, compared to 775; and 272 from South Africa, compared to 236.
The majority of immigrants, 9,500, were young adults from the ages of 18 to 35. Some 5,150 were 17 or younger; 3,000 ages 36 to 45; 4,600 from 46 to 65; and just over 3,000 were 66 or older.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, remarked that despite the downward shift this year, the long-term trend continues to be higher, and that the current numbers are still relatively high in context of the past 15 years.
“This is evidence of the fact that Israel continues to draw Jews from around the world seeking to live lives of meaning and identity,” he said.
He added, however, that this means the Israeli government must invest more to aid the integration and absorption of immigrants, particularly with employment and recognition of professional and academic certifications.
This has been a source of particular frustration for olim from France, where certifications in some fields are not recognized in Israel.
Qualita, the umbrella organization for French immigrants, flagged this issue in response to the newly released data, describing the figures as “concerning.”
They said the numbers were even more alarming, considering that approximately 10% of French immigrants leave within three years of their arrival.
“It’s sad to see that from France, the country from which there was the most immigrants in recent years, there were only 5,000 olim, in contrast with some 8,000 last year,” said Qualita CEO Ariel Kandel.
According to Kandel, the main cause for the decline was difficulty in finding suitable employment.
Kandel acknowledged that a solution had been reached on the issue of qualifications of dentists from France and that one was in the works for pharmacists as well.
He said, however, that thousands of qualified French nurses are still unable to work in Israel because their certifications are not recognized, and urged the authorities to solve the problem.
Medicine was among several professions highlighted by the Jewish Agency and Absorption Ministry with the release of this year’s data.
An estimated 1,150 immigrants in 2016 have professional backgrounds in medical and paramedical fields; 5,000 in industry, construction, and food services; 2,400 worked in hi-tech and engineering; 1,900 in the humanities and social sciences; and 1,080 in accounting and law.
“We are strengthening and building new projects in the realms of employing immigrants and encouraging entrepreneurship across the country, with an emphasis on Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said.
“We have continued to act in order to remove barriers to immigrants’ employment, and we reached a particular high in job placements this year,” she added.
“I fought and managed to increase the annual budget for local authorities, to increase activities with young people and students, and I will not give up and will continue to act ceaselessly in the realm of housing, along with our achievements this year.”
The data represent totals through November of this year and estimates based on aliya flight bookings and other factors through the end of December, according to Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer. Complete numbers for 2016 are expected in a few weeks.