National Insurance Institute finds large increase in poverty rates for children, ultra-Orthodox, declines for Israeli Arabs.
Published on December 7th 2017 in Haaretz
The proportion of Israelis living in poverty declined last year and income inequality was the lowest since 2003, but Israel continued to have the highest poverty rate in the West, the National Insurance Institute said Wednesday.
Some 1.8 million Israelis, 18.6% of all Israeli families, were below the official poverty line of monthly income of 8,345 shekels ($2,374) for a family of four in 2016. That represented a decline of half a percentage point from 2015, the NII said in its annual Poverty Report. The Gini measure of income inequality fell 1.3%, it said.
Still, that figure left Israel’s poverty rates above that of all other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states, including Turkey and Mexico.
“Despite the positive changes and a reduction in inequality, poverty is Israel is still significantly higher than in the OECD,” said Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minster Haim Katz. “The government is investing significant resources in an attempt to rescue families from the circle of poverty. It seems the main problem is the way resources are allocated.”
Adjusting the figure to meet OECD criteria, Israel’s poverty was fractionally lower, at 18.5%, in 2016, but that was seven points above the OECD average.
[...] Other worrying figures showed that poverty among children grew sharply in 2016 by 1.2 points to 31.1% of all Israeli children. The NII found that among ultra-Orthodox Jews, the poverty rate rose to 4.51% from 44.6%. Even though more of them had entered the labor force, there lack of a secular education confined them to low-paying, low-skilled work.
For the first time in several years, the NII poverty report surveyed Bedouin, whose high rates of poverty lifted the nationwide total. Discounting them, the overall poverty rates for families would have been 18.1%. For children, the rate was 29.7%, which would have represented no change from 2015.
Overall for Israeli Arabs, increasing levels of unemployment brought a sharp drop in the poverty rate, although it was still far higher than the average. In 2016, 49.4% of all Israeli Arabs were below the poverty line, down from 53.5% the year before, the NII said.