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There are now 7,465,000 people living in Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday. Its survey found that 75.5 percent of the population is Jewish, 20.2 percent is Arab and the rest are identified as "others."

The figure represents a population increase of 1.8 percent since last year.

According to the data, released ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Israeli populace is relatively young compared to that of other countries, with 28.4 percent of the population under the age of 14, in contrast to an average of 17 percent among Western countries.

The report noted that on average, Israeli men live to an age of 79.1 and Israeli women to 83. But the percentage of Israelis over age 65 stands at 9.7, as opposed to an average of 15 percent in the Western world.

In 2008, 156,923 babies were born in Israel, an increase of 3.5 percent over the figure in 2007. The report noted that the number of children per Jewish mother is increasing, while the number of children per Muslim mother is decreasing.

In the Jewish population, however, people are putting off marriage: In the 25-29 age group, about 62 percent of men and 42 percent of women were unmarried.

The study also found that thousands of people left Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over the last year to seek cheaper housing outside of Israel's two largest cities. The other big cities, Haifa, Ashdod and Rishon Letzion, also showed negative migration. Jerusalem topped the negative migration list, with 4,900 residents opting to move elsewhere, while Rishon Letzion was at the bottom, with only 600 people moving elsewhere.

In contrast, the cities of Petah Tikva, Rehovot, Ashkelon, Holon and Netanya saw increases in their populations.

The National Insurance Institute also published a report yesterday, on allowances paid out since last September. According to the data, the global economic crisis has led to a 37 percent rise in the number of people receiving unemployment benefits and a 4 percent rise in recipients of welfare payments.