It’s official: In 50 years time Israel won’t work
It’s official: we’re screwed.
In an exclusive story released today in Hebrew, Israel Radio published a report compiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics which posits interesting forecasts of Israel’s population makeup in 50 years time [the year 2059].
The research was commissioned by the Treasury’s Budget Department.
For the first time ever, according to Israel Radio, the CBS has related to, and forecast, the ultra-Orthodox population sector as a separate entity within the Israeli population.
The results are expected, but nonetheless astounding [and alarming].
According to the CBS report, in the year 2059 there will be some 16 million souls living in Israel.
The non ultra-Orthodox population will grow by almost 50% to 8 million people. These secular, and national religious people now make up 70% of the Israeli population, but will drop to 50% in 50 years time. That means only half the country’s adults will serve in the army and join the workforce.
Israel’s Arab population will grow by 135% to reach 3.5 million people. This sector currently makes up 20% of Israeli sociey, and is expected to grow to 25% by the year 2059.
The ultra-Orthodox population will grow by 580% to reach 5 million people. The ultra-Orthodox currently make up 10% of Israeli society, and according to the CBS report, is expected to rise to over 30%. Why this last statistic is alarming, to me anyway, is the fact that this sector of the population, by and large, does not work, and does not teach its children any of the core subjects that will make them employable in the future. This places an increasingly heavy burden on the taxpaying secular middle class, which is shrinking and will find this burden increasingly untenable. The resources of the government are going to be increasingly shifted towards maintaining this sector, providing it with state subsidies, as well as subsidized housing. This sector also does not serve in the army – placing an increasing burden on the country’s armed forces.
With these kinds of numbers though, the ultra-Orthodox population should have enough electoral stregth to thwart any attempt at changing the status quo, i.e. forcing the haredim to work, teach core subjects, and serve in the army. Furthermore, as we have increasingly witnessed, the ultra-Orthodox community is imposing ever stricter restrictions on women in society. The sector is increasingly brushing up against Israeli secular society and the resulting clashes are becoming more and more ugly.
One of the immediate conclusions of the CBS report is that there is an immediate need for changes to the country’s deep structural imbalances and flaws. The change needs to occur on two levels:
1. The ultra-Orthodox leadership, as well as its rank-and-file must be convinced that their situation and continued dependency on state subsidies is untenable, and they must be given sticks and carrots to get into the employment market.
2. The system of government needs to be changed before the ultra-Orthodox, by their sheer number of voters, make it impossible to change the system of government to a more equitable disposition.
My sense is that unless this problem is addressed soon, and the imbalance corrected, Israel will simply become ungovernable.
Incidentally, all this doesn’t factor in the 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, and who may eventually be counted into Israeli population statistics as a two-state solution is looking increasingly unlikely.
For a deeper understanding of the issue and possible solutions, read Will Work For Prayer