Most Israelis don’t want non-Jewish migrants, even if they are highly skilled

Pew poll of 12 developed countries shows Israel and Italy only places where majority opposes immigration of those with advanced degrees

Barnard College graduates beam at the Columbia University commencement ceremony in New York, May 18, 2016.  (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
Barnard College graduates beam at the Columbia University commencement ceremony in New York, May 18, 2016. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The majority of Israelis don’t support non-Jewish immigration to the country, even when the immigrants are highly trained or have advanced degrees, according to a new Pew Research Center report released on Tuesday.

The Pew poll found that 51 percent of Israelis oppose high-skilled immigration of foreigners moving to the country with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Pew poll focused on immigration of those not entitled to Israeli citizenship under the law of return, which applies to anybody with at least one Jewish grandparent.

Out of the 12 economically advanced countries surveyed, only Israel and Italy had the majority of the population oppose high-skilled immigration.

In contrast, most of the other countries surveyed supported high-skilled immigration. In the US, 78% of the public supports high-skilled immigration. In the United Kingdom, 85% of the population support high-skilled immigration.

In this photo made August 22, 2015, Ailu Xu, a graduate student from China, posts a sign directing Chinese students to a new student orientation meeting at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, Texas. (AP/LM Otero)

More than three out of four adults in Sweden, Canada, Germany, and Australia also support high-skilled immigration, the Pew poll found.

Even among people who would like to see overall immigration reduced, half or more of the respondents in all the countries support high-skilled immigration, except for the Netherlands, Israel, and Italy.

Highly educated migrants can be a boon for economies, and the European Union has special programs to attract highly educated migrants. Some countries, like Canada and Australia, have points-based immigration policies that favor immigrants with more education as well as other characteristics such as age and language ability.

Despite Israel’s overall opposition to immigration, the country has the highest percentage of immigrants with higher education among the countries surveyed, when including Jewish immigration. Almost half, or 49% of foreign-born adults over age 25 in Israel have a graduate degree, compared to just 35% of the native-born population.

That is a similar ratio to the UK, which also has 49% of foreign-born adults with advanced degrees, compared to 37% of native-born adults. In contrast, just 36% of foreign-born adults in the US hold a secondary degree, compared to 40% of the native-born population.

Illustrative image of students at the Rehovot Campus of Hebrew University, on January 22, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Israel offers grants to those moving to Israel under the law of return allowing them to study for a bachelors degree, masters degree or technical certificate at highly subsidized rates.

In addition, many of Israel’s 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union came with advanced degrees.

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