Can we predict the future?! Future thinking is essential for every community, especially a dynamic and changing community such as the Jewish community in the GTA.
In this article, I would like to shortly describe the potential reality of Toronto’s Jewish community within 10-30 years from today. I based my analysis on the UN data, Statistics Canada data, UJA data and publications, and futurism methodology for the probable future. This article is focused on critical meta-trends which may affect the Jewish community in the GTA as a group. However, please bear in mind, the probable future methodology has up to 70% reliability, so consider actions and plans carefully.
I summarize the article by pointing out the most relevant and urgent needs and suggest routes to address them.
- Demography and fertility
There is a wide agreement that the world population is in significant decrease. This trend may continue and affect the balance between young (up to 5 years old) and old (65 years and up). Consequently, humanity will be older, and the shrinking number of young people will need to carry the economy and pay health costs for the increasing number of elderly. Canada and Ontario are not going to experience it differently, and the demographic shift will occur between 2030 and 2050. In addition, even when skilled immigration is taken into account, which artificially increases the labour force, the shift will eventually occur, if delayed a bit. Demographic research done for the Jewish community in GTA about a decade ago shows the demographic shift is close and probably will happen in advance of mainstream Canadian society, i.e. 5-15 years from today, and will increase gradually.
- Immigration policy
Canadian immigration policy is rapidly changing, but it is safe to assume that Canada will continue to accept immigrants steadily, at a 20% ratio, more or less. The majority of immigrants choose to live in GTA; so, too, the Jewish immigrants. An independent census done by UJA in 2001 has shown that 19% of the Jewish population are immigrants. Forecasts from 2009 mistakenly predicted an increase in the immigrant numbers in the community due to improper use of extrapolative methods. The facts show that immigrant numbers are steady and even decreased a bit. However, when additional variables enter into the equation – the forecast requires re-thinking. Firstly, the fertility rate among Israeli woman is 2.9 children, yet among Jewish-Canadian – 1.8. Therefore, the next Israeli generation will be larger and more significant than today. Secondly, from 2025-2040 Israeli immigrants will reach their top consumptive and productive age (40-60 years old). Hence, their economic value within the community will be gradually increasing. Thirdly, intermarriage among Israelis is close to zero, whereas among Jewish-Canadians the intermarriage rate is about 20%. As a result, the Israeli section within the community will preserve Jewish identity almost completely within that time.
- Labour and income
A province of Ontario publication from 2011 shows beyond a doubt that immigrant income is very low, and in fact there is always an income gap between immigrant and Canadian born individuals. Additional governmental data show that immigrants cost billions of dollars to the Canadian economy even when their tax payments are taken into account. The Jewish-Israeli immigrant’s situation is pretty similar: two-thirds of households earn less than average income; and only 20% have more than $70k yearly income. Therefore, a major part of the Jewish immigrant is in need for economic assistance. The Jewish immigrant families are larger (as shown above), and we may therefore infer that about two-thirds of the Jewish immigrants are close or slightly above the poverty line. A vital additional variable in this equation is philanthropy. In short, the golden era of philanthropy is over, there is more debt and the inequality of distribution of wealth is growing. Therefore we might assume that fundraising will be increasingly difficult with time.
- Social generations and community giving
The World Globalization Index is an important tool for comparison between countries, and it is calculated by an aggregation of social, political, technological, economic and other indicators. Canada is ranked lower with time; whereas in 2006 Canada was ranked in 6th place, in 2013 it was ranked 12th (which is still high, but reflects a steady decrease). When taking the index into account with the above trends, it seems that Canada is stable and highly ranked, however it faces socio-economic challenges which will confront the country with emergency needs to address, such as keeping unemployment rate, population growth, and immigration under control, maintaining the benefit for Canada in both the long and short term alike. In addition, we have to bear in mind the social generation issue. In short, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) are holding key positions nowadays, however their influence is about to gradually decrease, and the Millennials (born 1980-2000) will be in charge. The Millennials do not hold the same set of values of Boomers, and their feeling is that the system is in collapse, and that there is an urgent need to fix everything. This generation will take leadership in a very short time, within this foresight timeframe. Therefore, we may assume that Millennials will act in a way of strengthening family and communal values, and less in preserving systems which lost community trust.
- Food for thought
This foresight for the Jewish community in the GTA for the next twenty years is complex and complicated. The Jewish community is a small group compared to the general GTA population, as well as to Ontario and Canada as a whole. Yet, this analysis is essential and vital for the future of the community, and we may infer some practical steps and take some action:
There is a need for collective community thinking regarding the demographic shift, with more focus on the increasing number of elderly as opposed to the decreasing number of children. We may assume that the country will not be ready to face this challenge on time, and assist the Jewish community. Moreover, the burden will grow with time.
For the next 20-30 years, the Israeli population in Canada will stay more or less the same size as today, however their purchasing power as well as income will increase. In addition, the Jewish immigrants will hold a key role in preserving Jewish identity as a whole.
There is a need to understand that the economic starting point for Jewish immigrants is much lower than Jewish-Canadian born individuals. Therefore, there is a need to assist them by all means, in order to enable them to establish in Canada, and assist communal needs within one generation ahead.
There is a need to take into account that fundraising is going to be complicated, and it will be difficult to increase the amount of donations. There is a need to rethink and innovate about fundraising (higher payment for services instead of donations by those who are established, using volunteers for communal bodies, etc.).
The Millennials will hold the next leadership positions within this foresight time frame, and will deal with strengthening the community’s values and systems. Therefore there is a need to revise and revisit the traditional way of thinking of how to recruit and engage the community around these values, so it will be supported among as many as possible
In summary, the Jewish community of Toronto needs to revisit and revise its investments as well as its manner of outreach and engagement, in order to enable Millennials to take true leadership positions and integrate the Israelis into the community. The key components to influence our community’s future are in our hands; however the desired change will probably not occur without real actions taken. Hence, involving more groups in planning and implementing alike is essential.
* The article was published in “Shalom Toronto” newspaper in Hebrew as well as in English on March 2015.