One in five Israelis and one in three Israeli children live in poverty according to a report published by the the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which placed Israel
first place in poverty rate among developed nations.
The alarming findings show Israel's poverty rate standing at 21% of the entire population, in comparison to only 13.8% in 1995.
In a report examining how the developed world copes with the global downturn, the OECD warned the "financial crisis is squeezing income and putting pressure on inequality and poverty" across the board. In last year's report Israel came second behind Mexico in the number of poor families in the OECD.
Another statistic placed Israel, which joined the OECD in 2010, fifth in regards to income gaps
between the rich and the poor, following Chile, Mexico, Turkey and the US. In Israel, as elsewhere, those hit hardest by the global slowdown were the vulnerable,
low-earning demographics, with many families being pushed below the poverty line.
“These worrying findings underline the need to protect the most vulnerable in society, especially as governments pursue the necessary task of bringing public spending under control,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in response to the findings.
“Policies to boost jobs and growth must be designed to ensure fairness, efficiency and inclusiveness. Among these policies, reforming tax systems is essential to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and also benefits and receives the support they need,” the official added.
In addition to the organization's recommendations, domestic critics slammed the the cuts in child allowances included in the biannual budget ratified
by the government earlier in the week. Director of the
National Insurance Institute Director Shlomo Mor-Yosef told Ynet that the reduction in benefits will see another 40 thousand families drop below the poverty line.
"Today the families living in poverty barely survive. With the planned cuts – those in child allowances, VAT and other social services such as dental care and daycare subsidies - these families will not survive," the official warned.
"There is no doubt the constant growth in poverty in Israel indicates a fundamental change is needed. Poverty represents a threat of the first order," said Welfare Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid
), noting he intends to introduce a national plan to combat the issue.
According to Eran Weintraub, the director of the Latet charity foundation, poverty is the result of wrong government policies and national priorities. Only posing the problem of poverty as the central goal on the government agenda "will allow Israel to reach within a decade the average poverty rates in the OECD and halt the disintegration of society and the growth of the division between the rich and the destitute."
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