Patterns of Integration into Israeli Society among Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union over the Past Two Decades

More than two decades have passed since the start of the mass wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the early 1990s, and since then Israel has absorbed over one million immigrants. The study utilized a range of databases to analyze the changes in various aspects of the immigrants’ lives since their arrival (1990-2013) and the factors leading to these changes. It examines adults and selected aspects related to school-age children and adolescents (including those born in Israel). Among the areas covered: demographics, financial status, employment, education, language proficiency, computer literacy, military/national service, physical and mental health, subjective measures about quality of life and the decision to remain in Israel. The data were compared with data on the total Jewish population in Israel and with data on Jews who had emigrated from the FSU to other countries (the USA and Germany).

The study is based on multiple sources: Central Bureau of Statistic  files – population censuses from 1995 and 2008 and annual population files, labor force and social surveys, household income and expenditure surveys, health surveys, a 2010 survey of immigrants; and various other sources: Ministry of Education matriculation and other test files, data from HIAS and an NJPS 2000/1 survey of FSU Jewish immigrants to the USA and studies on FSU Jews living in Germany.

The study revealed some encouraging findings, including:

  • The great majority feel at home and plan to stay in Israel.
  • The birthrate among female immigrants has risen relative to rates in the FSU.
  • Hebrew proficiency and computer literacy have improved over the years, particularly among the younger generation.
  • The percentage of immigrants 20-34 who served in the Israeli Defense Forces is similar to that of all Israelis of the same age.
  • The percentage of FSU-born students eligible for a high school matriculation certificate has increased in recent years; among the Israeli-born children of immigrants, the percentage is higher than the national average.
  • The number of immigrant college students and their percentage among young immigrants have increased rapidly despite the fact that most of them are no longer eligible for special support as immigrants.
  • The occupational status of the immigrants has been steadily improving and today over half of the immigrants with a higher education are working in an occupation commensurate with their education.
  • The longer they remain in the country, the closer their standard of living is to that of other Israelis.

Nevertheless, there are still a considerable number of difficulties:

  • Many (particularly the elderly and middle-aged) are still not sufficiently proficient in Hebrew and English.
  • The dropout rate from school among FSU-born students remains higher than that among total Jewish students.
  • Many of the immigrants (particularly among the more recent arrivals) are not working in their profession.
  • Some groups of these immigrants, including the elderly, are experiencing financial hardship, by subjective and objective indicators.
  • About half do not have permanent housing, although the percentage declines the longer they are in the country.
  • Their health status (particularly of the elderly and older adults) is lower than that of the total Jewish population.

The findings have been presented to the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency, and other major national ministries. The extensive scope of the findings provide the foundation for a better understanding of the difficulties facing the immigrants and for improving efforts to help them.