How fertility fortitude could end up being Israel's biggest weakness

How fertility fortitude could end up being Israel's biggest weakness
By Chris Harris with REUTERS
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Israel’s booming birthrate, once seen as a survival tactic in a hostile region, could be its undoing, a veteran environmentalist has claimed.

Alon Tal, a professor at Ben-Gurion University, has warned the country is on the road to ‘disaster’ because of a growing population.

Israel is home to 8.4 million people but this figure is forecast to jump as high as 20.6 million by 2059, while density, currently 380 people per square kilometre, is predicted to more than double over the same period, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

“Israel is on the road to an ecological, social and quality of life disaster because as the population rises it becomes more violent, congested and unpleasant to live in and with absolutely no room for any species other than humans,” said Tal, a founder of the Green Movement party.

“Historically, Israeli demographic policy was formed by hysteria with regard to fear of an Arab demographic takeover, fuelled by the rhetoric of politicians,” he added.

The average Israeli woman has three babies in her lifetime, nearly double the fertility rate for other OECD industrialised countries.

Israeli government policy encourages population growth with benefits such as child allowances, free schooling from three and funding for in vitro fertility treatments, reports Reuters.

Ari Paltiel, a demographer at CBS, said: “We forecast not to predict disaster but how to see the cliff that is coming up ahead, and there’s a cliff if we don’t change our behaviour.”

There are also question marks over whether Israel’s population growth can be used to spur on the economy. Birth rates are highest in Israel’s Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, where employment rates are lowest.

Paltiel added Israel ‘would go bankrupt’ unless employment levels and social security contributions were changed.

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