Number of Israeli Emigrants Drops Amid Woes Overseas

Despite surveys showing many Israelis are considering leaving the country, actual number of people moving abroad dropped by 30 percent in the second half of the last decade.

Lior Dattel
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The emigration rate is now low compared to that in other developed Western countries, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to the statistics bureau, Israeli emigration hit a low in 2010, the last year for which numbers are available on Israelis who had not returned for more than a year. In 2010, 15,600 Israelis emigrated; in 2006, the number was 22,400. It is assumed that since 2010 the number of emigrants has not changed significantly.

According to the statistics bureau, in 2010 the emigration rate was 2 per 1,000 Israelis − considerably lower than for most OECD countries, the grouping of the world’s most developed economies, which includes Israel. In 2006, Israel’s rate was 3.2 people per 1,000.

“Immigration from Israel in recent years has been a phenomenon involving relatively small numbers,” said Michal Sabah, a doctoral student in demographics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Around the world, emigration involves masses of people that sometimes change the population balance.”

“The people who seek to leave Israel do it after looking at opportunities overseas, usually in the United States, which is the destination of about 70% of [Israeli] emigrants,” she said. “And one can assume that the recurring news of instability in foreign economies in recent years compared to the relative stability in Israel is influencing Israelis looking to improve their economic and professional standing.”

In December, a survey showed that 37% of Israelis were considering moving abroad.

Israel is considered an exporter of educated young people. According to statistics bureau data for 2011, about 14% of Israelis with doctoral degrees lived abroad for more than three years, and 5% of Israelis who earned at least a bachelor’s degree between 1985 and 2005 live overseas.

Although the brain drain is considered a major problem, Israel is in better shape than most developed countries. According to an OECD survey in 2006, the emigration rate of educated citizens was 5.9 per 1,000 for Israel.

For Ireland the number was 18.1, for Britain and Switzerland it was above 11, and for Germany, Italy and the Netherlands it was above 7. Israel’s rate was similar to Finland’s but much higher than the United States’ at 0.7 per 1,000.  

Ben-Gurion International AirportCredit: Moti Milrod