Israel leaders in birth rate, but poverty major challenge

Report on developed countries finds mothers have average of three kids, 1 in 3 children living in sub-standard conditions.

August 21, 2014 03:23
2 minute read.
Orthodox family

An Orthodox family in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

While Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world, and provides an exceptionally supportive environment for working mothers, one of the biggest challenges facing Israeli families is poverty, a Taub Center for Social Policy Studies report has found.

The report, entitled “Family Structure and Well-Being Across Israel’s Diverse Population,” authored by the independent, non-partisan, socioeconomic research institute’s director of policy, Liora Bowers, focuses on quality of life issues affecting Israeli families.

According to its findings, Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world, with three children per woman, versus an average of 1.7 children born to mothers from other developed nations. Additionally, Israel offers a variety of government policies encouraging fecundity, the report stated.

Indeed, Israel is the only country in the world to offer essentially free in-vitro fertilization for women for up to two children, as well as near-universal child benefits, far exceeding other developed countries.

Moreover, the research states that Israel provides a “relatively supportive environment for working mothers,” that yields comparably high employment rates among Israeli mothers between the ages of 25 and 44.

“A long history of support for women’s employment has nearly eliminated the ‘motherhood wage penalty’ in Israel compared to other countries,” the report concluded, noting numerous policies supporting working mothers.

Such policies include job protection during and after maternity leave, high wage replacement rates during maternity leave, a high prevalence of part-time work options, robust childcare options, after school programs, and most recently, funding for universal preschool starting at age three.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing Israeli families is poverty, with one in five Israeli households – and one in three Israeli children – living below the poverty line, with the problem being particularly pronounced among Arab-Israelis and haredim.

The research also found significant differences in the challenges experienced by poor Arab-Israelis and haredim, including the fact that 15 percent of haredim in the lowest income quartile have experienced poverty often since age 15, compared to 22 percent of Arab-Israelis.

Additionally, the report found that haredim “demonstrate stronger support networks than do Arab-Israelis, with broader access to assistance from relatives and friends.”

The report was initially featured in the UN’s 2014 special edition publication Family Futures, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Headed by Prof. Dan Ben-David, the Jerusalem-based socioeconomic research center provides leaders and the general public with macro-analysis of economic and social developments facing the majority of Israelis.

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