Israel's birthrate - keep it high!

An Israeli economist who wants to cut child allowances because they encourage having large families has his priorities wrong.Op-ed.

Leonie Ben-Simon ,

Babies
Babies
Flash 90
Israeli Economics Professor Omer Moav has a recurring nightmare. He honestly believes that a high birth-rate will reduce the standard of living in Israel.

His target is the haredi sector, and his reasoning is that the government’s financial contributions per child are unaffordable.

Speaking on Israeli television, Prof. Moav, who teaches at IDC Herzliya, said that Israel’s natural growth rate, one of the highest in the industrialized world, could make it difficult for Israelis to maintain their standard of living in the future.

“If we want to maintain our position, we need to expand infrastructure by 2% per year,” said Moav. “But we don’t want to just maintain our position, we want to improve it, and that will require massive investment, particularly in public transportation, in order to keep up with other developed nations.”

Moav said Israel could cut spending on subsidies for large families in order to curb the natural growth rate – in particular among haredi Jews.

“The very high birthrate, which is concentrated in certain sectors, is a very serious economic challenge which we need to address.”

Is achieving a high financial standard of living the most important factor to take into consideration in choosing a lifestyle? Is Maoz afraid that the haredi sector will grow exponentially and become the majority in Israel? His reasoning that money is the only consideration is not neutral, as he is a professor teaching economics, seeing the world through the holy shekel.

It should be mindful to consider the Chinese experience: mandating families to have only one child has brought the country to its knees in social terms: there are insufficient young people to support the elderly. Boys are preferred whilst there is a thirty-million deficit in the numbers of women for men to marry. The net result is that little girls are being kidnapped and sold off to satisfy the demand for marriage from bachelors who cannot not find a wife.

Israel needs a larger population, not the opposite. If it were not for the high birthrate in the haredi sector there would be a demographic issue with Jews not in the majority.

Nuclear families are, of course, admirable, but they can never provide the large amount of care, companionship and interest in children’s well-being that a large cohort of siblings can. With families blessed with many children there are more people to love, there is the experience of growing up with people of different strengths and abilities, and a close permanency of relations for a lifetime that friends who may be transient cannot provide.

Children from large families have greater social skills due to this environment. Studies in the United States measured large families who were disadvantaged academically, however the same studies noted that in Israel this disadvantage did not apply.

Our large families will also provide the taxpayers of the future, and consumers for the economy, economic benefits not always realised.

Children are the hallmark of a healthy society. The world's Jewish population is small. Professor Moav should understand that the Almighty runs the world, not the economists.

Leonie Ben-Simon is a freelance journalist and company director with an MBA from Monash University,
and also a mother of six (all university educated).



top