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Israel - Aging Population

age differences percent elderly people israeli

When Israel was established, it was a young society with just 4 percent of its population age sixty-five and over. The first large immigration wave was composed mainly of European Jews, most of whom were young people who had survived World War II. The most recent wave of immigrants began in 1989 from the former Soviet Union. Since then, approximately 730,000 people have arrived in Israel, increasing its population by about 20 percent. The relatively high percentage of elderly people among them (16 percent) significantly increased the absolute number of elderly people in Israel, as well as their proportion in the general population.

In addition to the effect of immigration on Israel's demography, its population has grown older over the years due to a constant decrease in the fertility rate and increase in life expectancy. The aging of the population has been quite rapid. The percentage of elderly people age sixty-five and over grew from 4 percent in 1948 to 9.85 percent in 1998. The population of people age seventy-five and over (the old-old) grew even more rapidly. Thus, not only has the general population been aging, but also the old population itself has been growing older. By the end of 1998, the group of the old-old comprised 42.5 percent of people age sixty-five and over.

These trends are expected to continue. At the end of 1999 the Israeli population numbered 6,041,400 persons, with about 600,000 (almost 10 percent) elderly. In 2020 elderly people will make up close to 12 percent of the general population, and the old-old will constitute about one-half of the total elderly population.

Heterogeneity is a dominant characteristic of Israel's population. About 80 percent of Israelis are Jews, the remaining 20 percent are mostly Moslem Arabs. Elderly Jews comprise 11.5 percent of the Jewish population, while Arab elderly comprise only about 3 percent of the Israeli Arab population. Elderly Arabs are younger than elderly Jews, have less education, and lower income.

Significant diversity also exists among elderly Jews. In 1998, almost two-thirds of them were born in European or American countries, about 26 percent were born in Asian or African countries, and only 8 percent were born in Israel. In general, Israeli-born elderly persons and elderly of western origin have more education and higher levels of income than people of Asian or African origin. However, elderly immigrants who arrived to Israel in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union, although younger and more educated than the Israeli veteran elderly, are physically and economically weaker (Carmel and Lazar).

Gender differences are found in all the cultural groups of elderly Israelis. Similar to other industrialized societies, Israeli women live longer than men. In 1999, their life expectancy at birth was 79.9 years, while that of men was 76.2 years. Despite living longer, women's general well-being is worse than that of men in terms of health and socioeconomic status. More women than men also live alone and a significantly lower percentage of them is married (40.3 percent versus 78.7 percent in 1999).

Israel - Social Services [next]

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