According to the Single-Parent Act, passed in Israel in 1992, a single-parent family is one where a single adult bears sole responsibility for the household and is the primary caregiver for children under the age of 18.
The definition of a single-parent family includes single women, divorced and widowed men and women, as well as women who have been living separately from their husbands for over two years, women who have been refused divorce and woman living in shelters for three months and over.
Making a choice
Some 122,000 single-parent families are currently living in Israel. According to the New Family Organization, which is dedicated to advancing family rights and the rights of individuals within families, 90% of single-parent families are headed by women; 56% of them are headed by a divorced parent, 13% are widowed, 15% are separated from their spouse, and 13% are single.
"More and more women are choosing to be single parents these days, whether by divorcing their husbands or by staying single and having a child on their own," New Family told Yedioth Ahronoth.
New Family and NII data further revealed that 85% of single-parent families are Jewish, 9% are Arab and 6% are of other religions; 17% of single-parent families are headed by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Lesbian women and their partners are also considered single mothers.
Esther Toledano, who wrote the NII report and attorney Irit Rosenblum, head of New Family, both attribute the rise in single-parent families' ratio to a change in the perception of the traditional family – both named the increasing divorce rate as the primary cause, while Rosenblum also believes we are witnessing a normative change.
The technological advances available to women in Israel have also made a difference. About 4,000 children are born every year from sperm donations with the majority of women using the sperm bank being single.
A change in perception
"Israel has undergone a demographic change over the past decade or so, along with a change in norms, said Rosenblum adding "unfortunately, the State doesn't seem to grasp this change and the services provided to single mothers are lacking.
"Having a baby is no longer a national need nowadays, but rather a personal one… this is a healthy process in the Israeli society, which doesn't see itself as a state-oriented baby production line any more," said Rosenblum.
According to the NII report, Israel's single-parent ratio – 7% of all families – places it fifth in the world: the United State ranked in first place with 16%, Canada followed with 11%, Finland, South Korea, New Zealand and Norway are ranked third with 9% and Australia, the UK, Austria and Portugal ranked fourth with 8% of all families being single-parent ones.
Denmark, Spain and Switzerland came in at sixth place (6%), followed by Germany, Greece, Japan and Luxembourg (5%).