Why are fertility rates in Israel climbing as most other countries plummet?

Across the globe, countries are panicking as fertility rates are falling. Yet one country — Israel — seems to be the exception, with a higher fertility rate than the rest of the globe.

As the Christian Post reported, the fertility rate in Israel is the highest among developed countries. To sustain a population, a country needs a 2.1 birth rate per woman; the average in both Europe and the United States is just 1.6. Countless Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea are likewise struggling to boost birth rates as their populations plummet. Israel’s rate is 3.1.

So what has been the difference in Israel?

The Christian Post noted that it does not appear to be tied to families with extreme religious devotion having more children; religion appears to make no difference among Israeli families when it comes to fertility. There also seems to be no correlation with social welfare policies, as numerous countries have put many policies in place meant to encourage more births with little success. Education and poverty do not seem to play a role, either. Elsewhere around the globe, the more money and education a person has, the less children they are likely to have; however, this does not make a difference, either, among Israelis.

As Taub, an Israeli research center, explained, “Israel’s fertility is not only exceptional because it is high. It is exceptional because strong pronatalist norms cut across all educational classes and levels of religiosity, and because fertility has been increasing alongside increasing age at first birth and education—at least in the Jewish population. From an international perspective, these are atypical patterns.”

It’s also worth noting that abortion, though easily accessible in Israel, has been steadily declining in recent years. In 2022, the abortion percentage — the percentage of total pregnancies which end in abortion — was just 8%. Comparatively, for the United States, that percentage was just over 20% for the same year.

READ: Diaper company switches to adult diapers as fertility crashes in Japan

So why is Israel not seeing the same population implosion that the rest of the globe is? Some have argued that there is a cultural norm within the country in which children are cherished and treasured, something not every country can claim. Finland, for example, is another country facing dangerously low birth rates, and experts believe it is culturally driven.

“In most societies, having children was a cornerstone of adulthood. Now it’s something you have if you already have everything else. It becomes the capstone,” Anna Rotkirch, research director at the Family Federation of Finland’s Population Research Institute, said earlier this year. She added, “[T]hose who are well-off in many ways — [who] have a partner, have support from their parents, are employed, are not lonely — want to have more children … This is quite a new thing in many countries, including England. [The idea was:] my career isn’t going well, my relationships are a bit here and there, but at least I have a child… You just don’t see that way of thinking any more. For millennials, uncertainty reduction is not to have children.”

Pediatrician Robert C. Hamilton wrote about the Israeli difference in a 2018 article for the Wall Street Journal — and it contains wisdom that the rest of the world may want to take seriously.

“This norm of childbearing reflects a consensus among Israel’s communities. Collective beliefs about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness inform each citizen’s personal choices, and inevitably affect the nation’s demography. Nations that don’t recognize children as central to a good life will face serious economic consequences,” he wrote, and conclude, “Despite the political challenges Israel faces, I’m bullish on its future. It celebrates life… As a Jewish sage once put it, ‘A child without parents is an orphan, but a nation without children is an orphan people.'”

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