Number of working poor grows
The beginnings of a fall in the rate of poverty in Israel seen in the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 were wiped out in the second half of 2008, because of the economic crisis. This emerges from the 2008 Poverty Report, released by the National Insurance Institute of Israel today.
The dimensions of poverty in 2008 were the same as in 2007, placing Israel at the head of the ladder of developed countries with especially high rates of poverty, alongside the US and Mexico. According to the data, 420,000 Israeli families lived in poverty in 2008. Poverty affected 1.65 million people, 783,000 of them children. In other words, one in every three Israeli children is poor.
One mark left by the crisis is the rise in the proportion of poor people who are in working families. In 2008, families in which at least one member is a provider represented 46.3% of all Israel's poor, compared with 45.7% in 2007.In other words, even someone who goes out to work hard every morning can find themselves below the poverty line, especially if he or she provides for several others.
Another effect of the economic crisis has been a worsening of the situation of poor one-parent families. Although the proportion of such families in the total fell from 29.8% in 2007 to 28.8% in 2008, those already below the poverty line became poorer. This is because the difference between the incomes of these families and the poverty line grew from 32.8% in 2007, to 36.9% in 2008. Income from work fell by 4% in real terms, while the average number of wage-earners per family fell by 1.7%.
The situation of old people remained stable between 2007 and 2008, and even improved slightly according the measure of depth of poverty. The reason for this may have been a rise in welfare allowances for the old under coalition agreements, and a rise in the meager assistance for Holocaust survivors.
All in all, the rate of poverty among the elderly is still high, at 22.7%. The proportion of poor families with 1-3 children fell slightly in 2008, but this was offset by a rise in poverty in larger families.
There was also a fall in the incidence of poverty among new immigrant families, but poverty deepened in immigrant families already defined as poor.
The positive news in the report comes from the Arab sector of the population. The incidence of poverty in Arab families in Israel continued to fall, from 54% in 2006, to 51.4% in 2007, and 49.4% in 2008. This fall is attributed to greater integration of the Arabs in the labor market, with a rise of 4% in the number of wage earners in the sector. The proportion of Arabs in the total poor population is still very high, at 33.8%, compared with 34.6% in 2007.
Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog commented on this point in particular, and said, "The current Poverty Report is evidence of the direct connection between going out to work and escape from poverty. Despite the economic crisis, the rise in the rate of participation in the workforce which characterized the Arab sector in 2008, led to a fall in the number of poor families in that sector. Conversely, among one-parent families, the depth of poverty clearly worsened to a high degree, because of layoffs.
"The current Poverty Report leaves no doubt about the need to focus on encouraging employment, on removing obstacles to the employment of workers, and on developing varied programs for special populations. This I intend to do."
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