Ordinary Israelis taking on ever more household debt, report says

Israelis owe the most money to insurance and credit-card companies.

March 20, 2018 19:29
2 minute read.
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Credit card. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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More and more Israeli households are struggling to make ends meet, according to a Taub Center study published on Tuesday, which shows that Israelis are facing great difficulty in making mortgage payments and paying the monthly rent – especially if it’s both at once.

People are taking on more consumer debt than ever before. And the question of how to pay for housing lies at the heart of a growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

Given that housing prices have skyrocketed in Israel over the past decade, families which recently purchased an apartment under construction – and are therefore currently renting – are taking on more debt than anyone else, outspending their income by 156%.

Although household debt comprises a growing 41% of the country’s GDP, that ratio is low compared to other developed countries. On average, household debt makes up some 66% of the GDP among OECD nations.

Published by researcher Kyrill Shraberman in conjunction with the non-profit fiscal-responsibility group Pa’amonim, the report shows that 35% of married couples and 39% of unmarried people between the ages of 25 and 60 are spending more than what they earn each month.

Singles between the ages of 50 and 60 are also outspending their wages, more so than any other demographic. Young apartment renters between the ages of 25 and 29 are also outspending their entry-level salaries for jobs at the bottom of the career ladder.

Households making mortgage payments only tend to be luckier than the rest, as they do not face a similar negative gap between what they earn and what they spend.

Lower-income married couples outspent their income by 23%, while unmarried poor people put 37% more expenses on their credit card than what they earned.

In terms of expenditures, people are taking out a noteworthy amount of debt to spend money on apparel, haircuts and cosmetics. Those types of purchases can be more impulsive and less planned, as opposed to regular and planned expenses such as rent, tuition costs and home maintenance.

The study classifies indebted households by looking at bank account data – or debt resulting from loans, credit charges, debit balances and mortgage-payment delays. The report also garners data from municipal and commercial entities, along with querying friends and family if they lent someone money informally.

The average debt for 25- to 29-year-olds was NIS 150,000, compared to NIS 315,000 for those 50-60.

The top quintile of earners in Israel owed their banks some NIS 174,000, while the poorest quintile owed around NIS 88,000. Meanwhile, those from less affluent socioeconomic backgrounds owed the most to friends and family, around NIS 110,000.

In general, Israelis owe the most money to insurance and credit-card companies. After that, they are indebted to municipalities for property taxes, to schools for not paying student charges, and to electric, water and gas utilities.

“Home maintenance and education costs contribute more to households’ financial difficulties than discussed in the study, due to a tendency to delay these payments in order to cope with immediate economic difficulties,” Shraberman said.

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