A beggar is seen with her child in central Athens.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel has the fourth-highest poverty rate among developed countries, according to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report.
The report, released Tuesday and titled “Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries,” found that 2.6 million children have sunk below the poverty line in the world’s most prosperous countries since 2008, bringing the total number in the developed to some 76.5 million.
Israel had a poverty rate of 35.6 percent in 2013, according to the findings, after Spain, Latvia, and Greece – three countries that were hard hit by the 2008 recession. Since 2008, Israel experienced only a small increase in child poverty, ranking it 19th among 41 countries examined in terms of the change, according to the report. This figure is unimpressive, however, considering that in 2008 Israel had the highest poverty rate among developed countries at 35.1%.
“This report is another reminder of the plight of more than 800,000 children in Israel living in poverty and, unfortunately, the data shows the number in recent years has only increased,” MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, said in a statement released Wednesday in response to the findings.
Levy-Abecassis called on Finance Minister Yair Lapid to allocate the funds necessary to implement the recent NIS 7 billion recommendations of the Committee to Fight Poverty headed by Eli Alalouf.
To date, the government has not allocated any funds to address the phenomenon of poverty on a national scale, though Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, who appointed the Alalouf Committee, recently pledged NIS 1.7b.
The committee was responsible for making recommendations on the actions required by the state to combat poverty in all aspects of life.
The largest increase in child poverty was seen in southern European countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Croatia, as well as three states hard hit by the recession – Iceland, Ireland and Latvia, all of which saw an increase of more than 50% in child poverty since 2008.
Israel also had the highest rate of youth aged 15 to 24 not in education, employment or training (NEET), at 30.7%, according to the report. The only country close to this figure was Turkey, which had a NEET percentage of 25.5% in 2013.
“High NEET rates suggest an interrupted transition from school to work, or from school to further education, with longterm individual and societal costs,” the report stated.
According to the report, 18 countries surveyed were able to manage or even reduce child poverty during the recession.
“Governments that bolstered existing public institutions and programs helped to buffer countless children from the crisis – a strategy that others may consider adopting,” the report concluded.
The report listed a number of recommendations and principles for governments to adopt ranging from committing to end child poverty in developed countries to introducing minimum social standards and providing access to information to stimulate public debate about the well-being of children, as well as improving education and health systems to respond to the most disadvantaged and increasing investment in social protection policies that can reduce poverty.
“Fifty years from now, we will look back at this period as a critical juncture in the history of many affluent countries. The Great Recession may be remembered for the generation of vulnerable children it left behind.
But it may also be remembered as a transcendent historical moment, when recovering nations laid the foundations for more inclusive societies based on equality and opportunity for all,” the report said.