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Herald Catholic | Denatality afflicts the West but Israel goes against the trend.

Laura Perrins


To see the contrast in this approach you have to go to Israel, the only western type of nation that has above replacement fertility rates. It is not all down to ultra-orthodox Jewish families who do indeed have 5 or 6 children, but also due to the fact that secular Jews have the same number of children as Europeans used to have in the 60s and 70s. 


In this piece comparing Israel to Canada, the author explains, “Israeli women work at almost the same rates as they do here, with 59 per cent workforce participation compared to 61 per cent in Canada. But they get far less time off when they have babies — around three months compared to 18 in Canada. Similar to us, they have a strong social safety net with subsidized day-care and public health care. But they also share some of Canada’s struggles — their housing and grocery prices are extremely high, for example.


“The real secret to Israel’s fertility rates appears to be cultural. The family is at the absolute centre of Israeli life. Getting married and having kids is the highest cultural value. (Any Jewish person in either Israel or the diaspora will attest to the immense pressure to marry — it’s as if a great tragedy has befallen you if you have the ‘misfortune’ of remaining single past 26)”.


In fact, in Judaism most religious festivities are celebrated first and foremost in the home rather than the synagogue. Perhaps this also sends a message of just how important the family is in Jewish culture. 


And then of course there is the Shoah. “Holocaust generational trauma is also part of the story. The global population of Jews is still lower than what it was before the Second World War and there is a sense among Israelis that they have a duty to replenish those numbers.” 


The author [by The Economist] concludes, “But most importantly, children are seen as a blessing instead of a burden.” Indeed, “to many Israelis, children represent life — and only life brings hope”.



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