IDF draft office (archive)
IDF draft office (archive)Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

With the Draft Law and the issue of "sharing the burden" once again in the headlines, senior defense officials are pointing with concern to new data indicating that if current demographic trends continue, by the year 2050 a majority of youth will not be enlisting in the IDF for mandatory service.

According to figures presented to the defense establishment in recent weeks and published on Monday in Israel Hayom, if nothing substantial changes, just 41 percent of eligible youth will be enlisting in the IDF for mandatory service by 2050. A further 6.3 percent will sign up with Sherut Leumi, and 52.3 percent of youth who reach the age of 18 will neither serve in the IDF nor perform national service.

Based on current figures and trends, 241,000 youth will reach the age of 18 in 2050. 99,200 will enlist in the IDF, 15,300 will join Sherut Leumi, and 126,000 will do neither. Of these 126,000 youth, 57 percent are predicted to be from the haredi population, 35 percent from minority groups, and 8 percent from the non-haredi Jewish population, who are exempted for a variety of reasons, including their medical condition.

By way of comparison, in 2020, 144,00 youth reached the age of 18. 67,100 were considered to be from sectors which enlist in the IDF (some 46.6 percent), a further 10,000 (6.9 percent) joined Sherut Leumi, and 66,500 (46.1 percent) were considered to be from sectors which do not enlist.

Those not enlisting in 2020 were mostly Arabs and other minorities (54 percent), followed by haredim (36 percent). Another 10 percent were non-haredi Jews who received a draft exemption for whatever reason.

These figures, however, do not depict the entire extent of the situation, as they do not account for youth who drop out during their IDF service, or who never show up on base after being enlisted. Precise numbers are not apparently available for this group of youth, but it is a significant problem known to involve a double-digit percentage of those who are drafted, and is also increasing, especially following the coronavirus epidemic.

Thus, although around 46 percent of 18-year-olds enlist in the IDF, a much smaller number completes mandatory service - in all likelihood, just a third of young people.

There is, however, another way to look at the picture. In 2020, over 67 thousand youth enlisted in the IDF; by 2050, that number can be expected to increase to almost 100 thousand. Furthermore, the IDF has no need of more than 30 thousand more soldiers than it has today, and will have to establish new units to absorb them, at great expense.

While the IDF is currently suffering from a shortage of manpower, this is only in specific units - combat troops and certain technological units - and a general influx of youth will not necessarily address this problem.