Tel Aviv getting younger

Expert: What is happening is in direct contrast to the trend in other large cities around the world.

baby metro 88 224 (photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
baby metro 88 224
(photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
"We are speaking about record numbers, the likes of which have not been seen for the past two decades," says a municipal education department spokeswoman If you thought Tel Aviv was no place for children, think again. The city is in the midst of a baby boom, with almost twice as many two-year-olds as 10-year-olds now living in the city, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Tel Aviv. And the boom means that while 4,000 children are now in first grade at schools around the city, that number is expected to rise to 6,000 within the next four years, necessitating major adjustments in the city's education system. According to the report, the image of Tel Aviv as a city with an aging population is entirely wrong, with hordes of young families forsaking comfortable villas in outlying cities and towns in order to live in small apartments in the city. Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics and from the city's education department show that four years ago, 3,500 children were in the first grade in the city, and that this number rose by a steady average of 125 children per year to 4,000 in the current school year. But the child boom is already beginning to make its effects felt, with 4,600 children expected to begin first grade in the coming school year (2008-9), and 5,400 children expected to do so in the following year (2009-10). And in four years' time, some 6,039 children currently aged two to three will enter first grade. "We are speaking about record numbers, the likes of which have not been seen for the past two decades," a municipal education department spokeswoman said. She said the city was already dealing with a lack of kindergartens, and the first thing that was being planned was the opening of 20 additional kindergarten classes in the next school year. Preparations are also being made to open additional classes at schools in north Tel Aviv, primarily in the Bavli and Ramat Hahayal areas, and plans are being drawn up for the building of a new elementary school in an area north of Sde Dov. The city also plans to build a new high school in north Tel Aviv. A municipal spokesman said that after years in which more people left the city than moved to it, a change began in 2003, with more couples choosing to move to Tel Aviv and with an increased birth rate. The spokesman said that in 2006, 22,000 people moved to the city, while 18,500 left it, and that many of the new residents were families with young or school-aged children. He said that although the cost of living in Tel Aviv was high, incomes were also higher and job opportunities were greater than in other cities or towns. A Tel Aviv University academic said that what was happening in Tel Aviv was in direct contrast to what was happening in other large cities around the world. "The combination of a city center with couples with babies is not something you see in Rome or New York. In the big cities of the world there is not an increased birth rate … the world model is that people prefer to raise their children in the periphery, where housing is cheaper," the academic said. "It seems there has been a change in the priorities of young couples here, and not a few prefer accessibility to services, culture and entertainment over the option of living in a larger apartment or private house elsewhere." A municipal spokesman said 384,000 people currently live in Tel Aviv, a number that is expected to rise to 450,000 by 2025. The spokesman said the average age of residents is falling and stands at 34 today, compared with 35.8 in 1983. The number of people aged over 65 has also fallen, from 19 percent of the city's population 25 years ago to 14.6% today.