Long-term mortality forecasts are critical for government planning and welfare provision, because life expectancy has direct implications for health expenditure and old-age state pensions, among other factors. Yet, forecasting Israeli life expectancy has proven especially challenging for several reasons.
First, while Israel’s life expectancy at birth is one of the highest in the world, its historical mortality record is rather short compared to other countries. When data are scarce demographers often turn to similar countries, learn from their past experience, and apply a model to the country with limited data (that is, in very broad terms, the approach adopted by the UN Population Division). But Israel has only a handful of countries to learn from–such as Japan, Italy, and Switzerland–and even in those cases we can, at best, hope to gain insight a mere decade or two into the future.
Second, Israel’s population is composed of several social groups with unique characteristics and mortality profiles. Population heterogeneity makes forecasting difficult, because forecasting for the population as a whole overlooks important components of change (and is therefore less accurate). On the other hand, forecasting for each social group separately results in divergent forecasts in the long run, which do not conform to the national trend.
For these reasons, among others, previous mortality forecasts for Israel have often missed the target, either underestimating or overestimating life expectancy at birth. In a research report prepared for Bituah Leumi (National Insurance Institute of Israel), I review past mortality forecasts and why they have been unsuccessful, compare alternative models for forecasting mortality, and produce my own forecast for Israeli life expectancy in 2065.