The poverty report for 2010, which was released this month, paints a grim picture even though the number of poor in the country has dropped.
"The general picture is bleak," said Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon in a joint press conference with National Insurance Institute Director General Esther Dominissini on Thursday. "Slightly less than 20% of the families in Israel are poor. A third of all children are poor."
According to the annual Poverty and Social Gaps Report, in 2010 433,300 families lived under the poverty line. The poor households were comprised of 1,733,400 individuals, 837,000 of whom were children. The poverty rate dropped from 20.5% in 2009 to 19.8%. The percentage of poor kids dropped from 36.45% to 35.3%.
A slight drop has registered in the percentage of the elderly poor, which went from 20.1% in 2009 to 19.6%. But the data showed that those who remained under the poverty line found themselves worse off than the previous year. In the Arab sector, the poverty rate among working families remain largely unchanged, dropping from 13.4% to 13.2%.
Despite the reductions in the rates, the report indicates that working, poor families across the board have plunged into a deeper state of destitution compared to the previous year.
Kahlon told reporters Thursday that the situation could be remedied through government intervention and better economic policy.
"Poverty is not predestined," he said. "No one is born with the genes of a poor person."
Long way to go
Dominissini added that that the report indicates a positive trend and noted that better findings are expected in the next report, but admitted that that the situation stands to be improved.
"There is still a long way to go," she said. "The poverty rates are in the double digits, and the state of Israel should not accept that."
The National Insurance Institute chief said that Israel isn't faring well compared to other OECD member nations.
"It's last before Mexico," she said. "As a welfare state, we don’t want to be in the lowest extreme."
Dominissini called on the government to make poverty a top priority.
"(The issue) has to be on the government's agenda everyday, as a long-term plan, because poverty cannot be eradicated in a day or in two years," she said.
She added that implementing the Trajtenberg Committee's blueprint for socioeconomic change could help fight the unfortunate phenomenon.
According to 2009's report, published last year, a quarter of the population was considered poor – 1,774,800 people. Some 15,000 families went under the poverty line that year, most of them families with multiple children.
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