Politicians looking for electoral support from Israel’s middle class in last
Tuesday’s elections may have been barking up the wrong tree; a study released
Monday by the Adva Center for equality and social justice in Israel found that
the middle class in Israel is shrinking, falling from 30.8 percent of households
in 1992 to 27.8% in 2010.
In comparison, in the last decade the
proportion of the middle class in Denmark was over double (62.8%) that in
Israel. Nordic countries were not the only ones to best Israel in middle-class
robustness, however. France, Germany, Canada, Russia, the United States and the
United Kingdom came out ahead, as did debt-ridden and economically shaky
countries including Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Mexico and Brazil came in
The study, conducted by Noga Dagan-Buzaglo, found that the
social gaps were increasing, with greater disparities between the median middle
class income and those of the rich and poor.
While median income across
the entire economy grew 24% from 1992-2010, it didn’t grow evenly; the upper
class grew by 27%, the middle by 24% and the lower class by only 18%.
many ways, it is reminiscent of the sociological characteristics normally
associated with the working class in Western nations,” the report
The upper class, which represented 37.8% of households, earned
65.5% of all household income in 2010, according to the study. That figure was
up from 1992’s share of 61.8%, and most of it in the highest echelons of the
upper class. The middle class, on the other hand, lost some of its share of the
country’s wealth, falling from a 24.7% share to a 21.3% share.
last year by Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Karnit Flug that broke the middle
class down by sector found that in 2010 it was dominated by non ultra- Orthodox
Jews, at 88.4%.
Only 9% were Arab and 2.6% ultra-Orthodox. Among all of
Israel’s Arabs, only 15.6% were middle class, while 80.4% were lower
Among the ultra-Orthodox the picture was even more dire: 13%
middle class, and 81.2% lower class.
Breaking down the characteristics of
the middle class, the Adva study found that lower ends of the echelon had
greater percentages of one-income households, whereas two-income houses tended
to be higher up in the rankings.
The change exhibited an economic shift
since 1992, when two salaries were not necessary to achieve a middle- class
income. In terms of employment, the middle class consisted mostly of skilled
workers in manufacturing, construction, sales and services.
notable entries to the upper class since 1992 came from households headed by
mizrahi Jews (from Arab countries) and former Soviet residents.
biggest distinguisher between middle and upper class in Israel confirmed what
years of international research have shown: education is the best predictor of
About a quarter of the middle class had graduate educations, as
opposed to about half of the upper class.
Returns on education, however,
were greater for men than women, according to the study.