Emigration from Israel drops to lowest level in decades

600,000 Israelis living abroad, with number of Israelis emigrating falling to lowest level in more than three decades.

David Rosenberg,

El Al airplane
El Al airplane
Photo: Moshe Shai / Flash90

The number of Israelis moving abroad fell to the lowest level in more than three decades, according to a new report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

About 14,300 Israeli citizens and permanent residents left the country for more than a year in 2017, the report says, the lowest number of emigrants departing Israel since the 1980s.

That’s a 6% decrease in the number of emigrants compared to 2016, when 15,200 Israeli citizens and residents left the country for a year or more.

The number of Israelis leaving the country has been in decline since 2003, following two years of heavy outward migration during the peak of the Second Intifada from 2001 to 2002. Since 2002, emigration has fallen 48%, from a high point of 27,300 emigrants in 2002 to 14,300 in 2017.

Emigration from Israel 1990-2017 Central Bureau of Statistics

Emigration from Israel had been on the rise during the 1980s, increasingly steadily during the First Intifada and reaching nearly 25,000 emigrants per year in 1990. A total of roughly 120,000 Israelis left the country from 1980 to 1989.

The number of emigrants trended downward from 1990 to 1999, notwithstanding spikes in the rate of emigration in 1993 and 1995. The trend reversed itself beginning in 2000 with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, with the decline resuming in 2003, and accelerating dramatically in 2008.

The decrease in the number of emigrants, coupled with Israel’s growing population, has cut the rate of emigration significantly, falling from roughly 5 out of every 1,000 Israeli residents in 1990 and over 4 out of every 1,000 in 2001-2002, to just over 1.5 out of every 1,000 in 2017.

Nevertheless, the overall migration of Israelis moving abroad and Israelis returning home remains negative with 8,400 Israeli citizens and residents returning to Israel in 2017, leaving a net negative migration of Israelis of 5,800 in 2017. In 2016, the net negative migration of Israelis stood at 6,300.

These figures do not include the total number of immigrants moving to Israel, however, which topped 28,000 in 2017.

A narrow majority of Israelis who moved abroad in 2017 were foreign-born immigrants who had moved to Israel in the past. According to the report, 48% of emigrants in 2017 were Israeli-born, compared to 52% who were born abroad. Two-thirds of foreign-born Israelis who emigrated in 2017 were born in Europe, compared to 22.7% who were born in the Americas or Australia.

Of those foreign-born emigrants who left Israel in 2017, 44% had moved to Israel in the previous four years, while 38% had moved to Israel during the massive wave of immigration to Israel (mostly from Eastern Europe) from 1990 to 2007. Just nine percent were immigrants who had moved to Israel prior to 1989, and nine percent had moved to Israel between 2008 to 2012.

Of the 14,300 emigrants who left Israel in 2017, 71% were Jews, 5% were Arabs, with the remaining 24% either non-Arab Christians (typically immigrants who moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union) or residents with no listed religion.

Of the 8,400 Israelis who returned to Israel in 2017, 76% were Jews, 5% were Arabs, and the remaining 19% either non-Arab Christians or residents with no listed religious affiliation.




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