Israel Rated Third Best Country to Raise Children.
When families emigrate to another country, the primary question they ask, “What’s best for the kids?” More specifically – “Will they make new friends?” “Are the schools good?” “Is it safe?”
Of course, it all adds up to “Will they be happy?” and if so, the parents will be happy.
All parents want the best for their children so living in a kid-friendly place is paramount. And despite the instability of the Middle East – with children being the most vulnerable – there is one country that bucks this trend. That country is Israel. According to a recent survey, the Jewish state is “one of the best countries in the world to raise a family.”
InterNations, the world’s largest network for people who live and work as expats abroad, ranked Israel third on their list of 19 countries for raising a family. First place was Finland, with the Czech Republic taking second place. Trailing Israel in fourth and fifth place respectively, were Austria and Sweden. The other countries, in descending order, were: Norway, Australia, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, South Africa, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico and South Korea. The UK and US did not make the ‘grade’.
The InterNations survey rated 43 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of 1-7. One of the sub-indexes is the Family Life Index, which consists of 45 countries. Expats were asked to rate everything from childcare and education, to children’s health and safety. Each country had to have at least 31 respondents raising dependent children abroad, for the nation to be included in the index.
Third ranked Israel advanced one place from the previous year. The survey revealed that 81 percent of expat parents were “happy with the childcare options” in Israel and an impressive 84 percent expressing “general satisfaction” with the education.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there were approximately 1.96 million families in Israel in 2014, compared with 1.65 million in 2005. The average Israeli family size in 2014 was 3.7 people, the same as the decade before and high compared to Europe.
But here again, Israel is bucking the trend. How come Israeli families are larger than in other western countries?
One of the most consistent demographic observations is that the higher the level of economic development of a country, the lower the level of its birth rate. Similarly, higher rates of women’s participation in the workforce and higher rates of post-secondary education for women are both associated with lower birth rates. This has resulted in an overall dramatic drop in birth rates in developed countries over the last half century. Since 1965, the average birth rate in the OECD (the top 34 Western democracies) has dropped from 3.2 per woman to 1.7, well below the replacement level of 2.1, and it continues to fall.
Israel is very much a part of this group of highly developed countries: Women work outside the home at very high rates, and the percentage of women with higher degrees is huge – greater than the percentage of men. By virtue of all the demographic facts, Israel’s fertility rate should also be under 2% and falling.
However, the average birth rate among Israeli Jewish women is over 3 per mother, the highest by far among all the other developed nations. Israelis are, on average, having more babies than their parents.
Everywhere in the Western world, except Israel, parents are opting for less children.
What is the reason?
The first obvious explanation is religion. Having more babies is a reflection of Jewish commitment and Jewish identity. In the words of David Goldman, author of “How Civilizations Die,”
“The stronger the Jewish commitment, the more likely Jews are to have children. Living in Eretz Yisrael is one of the strongest manifestations of Jewish commitment, such that Israeli Jews within a broad spectrum of religious observance have as many children as the most religiously engaged American Jews.”
However, it’s not only the religious that are having more kids. The writer found on interviewing families in the Arava – Israel’s southern desert, where families are mainly engaged in farming and are more traditional than observant in the practice of their religion, families tend to be large, with four kids on average. As one flower grower farmer told me: “It is not uncommon for families to have six children. I have five.”
So, if families across the religious spectrum are having more kids there must be another more fundamental explanation, and that explanation may be philosophical. Other studies have found that Israelis are most optimistic about the future, and indeed, according to 2015 Pew Center Study of Optimism, Israelis are the most optimistic among the technologically advanced nations.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be something inherently life-embracing and family-oriented about life in Israel and why Israel is so highly rated as a top country to raise a family.