The Arab Demographic Revolution

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1565, March 16, 2012

The steep decline in the Arab fertility rate west of the Jordan River – in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and pre-1967 Israel – reflects the demographic revolution throughout the Muslim world, especially in the Arab countries of the Middle East.

According to the 2011 CIA Factbook, the fertility in Iran, the most religious Shiite country, is 1.87 births per woman, in Saudi Arabia, the most religious Sunni country – 2.5, in the small Gulf States – 2.5, in North Africa – 2, in Syria – 3, in Egypt – 2.94, in Jordan – 3.4, in Iraq – 3.76, in Yemen – 4.81 and in Sudan – 4.93 births per woman.

In 1969, the Israeli Arab fertility rate (which is similar to the Judea and Samaria Arab fertility rate) was 6 births higher than the Jewish fertility rate.  In 2012, the Arab-Jewish fertility gap plunged to 0.5 births. Moreover, the fertility rates of younger Arab and Jewish women have converged at 3 births per woman, while the average Israeli-born Jewish mothers already exceed 3 births per woman. Jewish fertility trends upward (particularly within the secular sector!), and Arab fertility trends downward, as a result of successful integration of Arabs – and especially Arab women - into the infrastructures of modernity.  

The Jewish fertility rate in Israel is higher than any Arab countries, other than Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Jordan, which are trending downward. 

The triggers of the demographic revolution among Arabs west of the Jordan River are very similar to those which caused the overall Muslim/Arab demographic implosion: urbanization, expanded primary, secondary and tertiary education primarily among women, more assertive women at home and in the workforce, family planning, all-time high wedding and reproductive age, all-time low teen pregnancy, all-time high divorce rates and youthful emigration.  In 2012, an increasing number of Arab women remain unmarried during their 20s.   

Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, a leading demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2012: “Declines in the total fertility rate [in Muslim countries] have been jaw-dropping…. Throughout the global Muslim community, the average number of children per woman is falling dramatically. According to the UN Population Division, all Muslim-majority countries and territories witnessed fertility declines over the past three decades…. Algeria and Morocco have total fertility rates in the same ball park as Texas; Indonesia is almost identical to Arkansas; Tunisia looks like Illinois; Lebanon’s fertility level is lower than New York’s; Iran’s is comparable to that of New England, the region in America with the lowest fertility…. A century of research has detailed the associations between fertility decline and socioeconomic modernization, as represented by income levels, educational attainment, urbanization, public health, treatment of women, and the like…. Current fertility levels seem to be the product of intangible factors (culture, values, personal hopes and expectations) and not just material and economic forces…. Where Muslim women want fewer children, they are increasingly finding ways to manage it – with the pill or without it…. The fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth…. A new world is being born before our eye – and we would all do well to pay much closer attention to its significance.”

 Demographic studies document that dramatic declines in fertility never bounce back to previous high levels.

While Arab demography is imploding, Israel’s Jewish demography benefits from a tailwind – a 56% surge in the number of annual Jewish births between 1995 and 2011, compared to a 10% rise in the number of Arab births. In 1995, the Jewish births constituted 69% of total births, compared with 76% in 2011. In 1995, there were 2.34 Jewish births per one Arab birth, compared with 3.2 Jewish births per one Arab birth in 2011.  Contrary to most of the world, Israel’s Jewish population is growing younger (while Israel’s Arab population is growing older) and educated, which bodes well for Israel’s economic growth.

Jewish demography is further bolstered by Aliya (Jewish immigration), an unprecedented flow of returning expatriates, a relatively low number of emigrants and a substantial annual net-emigration of (mostly young) Arabs from Judea and Samaria -17,000 in each of the last three years.

A pro-active Aliya policy would leverage the global economic and political circumstances in the former USSR, France, England, Argentina and the USA.  It could produce a wave of 500,000 Olim (Jewish immigrants) during the next ten years, catapulting the current 66% Jewish majority – in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel – to an 80% Jewish majority by 2035.