Israel’s Emigration Rate Among Lowest in Developed World

Despite Finance Minister Yair Lapid's criticism of Israelis who move abroad, he can take comfort that Israel’s emigration rate is at near-record low.

Lior Dattel
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Lior Dattel

Finance Minister Yair Lapid railed against Israelis moving abroad for financial reasons in a much-publicized Facebook post, but Central Bureau of Statistics figures show that the number of Israelis who left the country in 2011 had not returned by the end of 2012 stands at 16,000 - one the lowest figures over the past three decades and among the lowest rates in the developed world.

The low emigration rate in 2011 paradoxically coincided with mass protests that erupted that summer over the cost of living in Israel, although it does represent a 3.8 percent rise compared to 2010, when the rate of emigration was 15,600. In addition, it should be noted, in 2011, about 9,500 Israelis who had resided in the country and who spent an extended period abroad returned to Israel. These figures do not include Israelis who came back after short periods as tourists.

In recent years, Israel's rate of emigration has been two people per 1,000 residents, which is considered a particularly low rate compared to the world's other developed economies, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD. As recently as 2006, the emigration rate from Israel was 3.2 per 1,000.

Since 1990, a year in which 24,700 Israelis left the country, there has been a more than 35 percent decline in the annual rate of emigration. It is estimated that about 285,000 Israelis who have left the country since then remain abroad, mostly in the United States.

About 70 percent of Israeli emigrants head for the United States. But according to the most recently available OECD data, which is from 2006, there are only about 142,000 Israelis who made the United States their permanent home. It is thought that the number of Israelis living abroad may appear to be larger because they tend to settle near already existing populations of other Israelis, thus making it difficult to monitor the population turnover.

The immigration data comes against the backdrop of a Channel 10 news series this week about Israelis who leave the country for more affordable locations abroad. The series prompted Finance Minister Yair Lapid to post the following on Facebook:

“A word to all the people who are fed up and leaving for Europe. As it happens, you’ve caught me in Budapest,” Lapid wrote Monday night on his Facebook page - a frequent sounding board for the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party. “I came here to speak out in parliament against anti-Semitism and remind them how people here tried to murder my father only because the Jews had no state of their own, how they killed my grandfather in a concentration camp, how they starved my uncles, how my grandmother was saved from a death march at the last moment. So forgive me if I’m a bit impatient with people who are willing to throw the only state the Jews have into the garbage because it’s easier to live in Berlin.”

Despite recent growing emigration fears, only a few thousand Israelis live in Berlin.Credit: David Bachar

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