More than 880,000 Israeli children lived in poverty in 2016 – meaning one out of every three, according to the National Council for the Child’s annual report released on Tuesday.
The rate of child poverty has remained relatively steady for the past decade, and is more than double the average in the OECD.
At the end of 2016 there were 2,851,911 children in the country, comprising 33% of the population.
Between 1970 and 2016 the number of children in Israel nearly doubled, while the number of Muslim children more than tripled.
In 2016, nearly two out of three ultra-Orthodox children lived in poverty, as did 62% of Arab children. Only 11% of poor children were able to escape poverty due to state transfer payments.
Large gaps were also reported in the geographic distribution of poverty, with the Jerusalem District and the North reporting, 53% and 37% of children living in poverty, respectively, compared to Tel Aviv, with 19%, and the Central District, at 14%.
President Reuven Rivlin, upon receiving the report from Vered Vindman, director-general of the National Council for the Child, said: “A poor child is a child who goes to bed hungry.
He is a child who comes to school without a sandwich. He is a child who finds it difficult to concentrate in school. He is in danger. He is a youth who goes out to work to help support his family, and [later] an adult who finds it difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. It doesn’t matter what his religion is or to what sector he belongs.”
The document, composed of data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, government ministries, and nonprofit organizations, covers a number of aspects including, education, health, poverty, abuse and criminal activity.
“Our job – now – is to act; to do more for the future of our children. To allocate more resources in [the form of] funds and manpower to care for those who comprise more than a third of the State of Israel’s population,” Rivlin said.
“To get to know them better, to protect them more, in all areas, at home, in educational institutions, on the streets and online.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the bleak report.
“The State of Child report published this morning is a certificate of poverty for government policy that occupies itself day and night with laws demanding self-sufficiency, and the creation of fake news for the public,” Herzog said in a press release. “While Netanyahu grows [in power], hundreds of thousands of children experience neglect.
“Anyone who wanted proof that Netanyahu has exhausted his term in office received it today in black and white, in the report,” Herzog said.
Other statistics in the report pertained to children’s use of technology.
The average Israeli child begins making online purchases when he is 13 years old.
Furthermore some 60% of those aged seven-17 surf the Web for more than four hours per day.
In a comparison of 40 countries, Israel was ranked fourth in the proportion of those aged 11, 13 and 15 who use the computer for four or more hours per day, and second among youth who watch television for four or more hours a day.
Ninety percent of Israelis aged 13-17 are active on WhatsApp, 75% are active on Facebook, and 61% are active on Instagram.
Some 77% of children aged seven-17 reported being “hurt” online, while 34% said they were accidentally subjected to pornography.
Additionally, the study found that only 38% of children who were harmed in some way online told their parents, while 26% told a friend, and 18% chose not to tell anyone.
More than half of children aged 13-17 said they had photos of a private or embarrassing nature on their cellphones.
Israel ranked first among 40 countries in the proportion of children in the same age group that did not participate in any physical activity for at least 60 minutes during the past week.
The report also had positive findings, such as an increase in the number of 12th-grade students eligible for matriculation certificates, and a decrease in the number of students involved in violent incidents.
In response to the statistics, Vindman said that in many aspects children’s situation in Israel is worsening or at the very least not improving.
This is true regarding “the rates of unthinkable poverty that have not changed over the last few years, so with the growing rates of children at risk and children who are victims of sexual assaults, and so with the growing inequality among different groups of children,” she said.
Vindman called on the government to make the welfare of children a top national priority, something she said has not been the case to date.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.