Israelis emigrating? Lowest number in nearly three decades

580,000 citizens live abroad, 3.3 million immigrants since 1948.

August 16, 2018 04:41
2 minute read.
Israeli flag

Israeli flag. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The rate of Israelis moving abroad is at a 28-year low, a counterintuitive statistic considering the amount of complaining and catastrophizing that takes place around Shabbat dinner tables and in the media.

For instance, former prime minister Ehud Barak, when asked simply on a radio show on Tuesday how he was doing, replied, “Personally, excellent; nationally, horrible.”

“Why horrible?” asked KAN Bet radio host Ron Binyamini, to which Barak replied, “Look around. You don’t read newspapers? You don’t see?”

But if statistics regarding the number of Israelis leaving the country are any indication – and there are constantly reports about citizens who want to leave, either because of the economic situation, employment opportunities, the security situation or the “direction the country is going” – not everyone would agree with Barak.

According to numbers published by the Central Bureau of Statistics this week, some 15,200 Israelis left the country in 2016 for a year or more, the lowest number since at least 1990. Some 8,900 Israelis who lived abroad for more than a year returned in 2016, meaning that 6,200 more Israelis left the country than returned – the third lowest deficit since 1990.

But even with that deficit, 28,000 new immigrants arrived in 2016, meaning there was a net population gain through immigration, subtracting the Israelis who moved abroad – and this despite constant talk of Israeli dissatisfaction and continuous talk about a “brain drain.”

In 1990, some 24,700 Israelis left for greener pastures overseas, a number that peaked in 2002 – the height of the Second Intifada – when 27,300 left for more than a year. The country’s population in that year was 4.6 million, compared to 8.5 million today, meaning that in a year when the country’s population was just over half of what it is today, 9,500 more Israelis left the country.

According to the statistics, the average age of those leaving was 28, and slightly more men than women (53% to 47%) exited for extended periods.

Of the Israelis who left the country in 2016, more than half (54%), were immigrants, and about half of them immigrated to Israel over the last decade.

Some 50% of those Israelis who returned in 2016 were away for under two years, while 22% returned after living abroad for six years or more. But just as immigrants made up a huge percentage of Israelis who left the country, they also made up 42% of those Israelis who returned – meaning they made aliyah, left for more than a year, and then returned to Israel again.

According to the CBS, there were between 560,000 to 596,000 Israelis living abroad in 2016, not including children of Israelis born overseas. According to Jewish Agency figures, since the beginning of the state, some 3.3 million people have immigrated to Israel.•

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