The gaps between Israel's rich and poor continued to grow throughout 2007, with more people than ever falling into poverty, a report published Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed.
Released ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which takes place on October 17, the report shows that some 40 percent of the country's children were subjected to poverty-like conditions in 2007, and the socioeconomic gaps between Jewish and Arab populations and between the religious and secular have sharply increased in recent years.
"It is a very sad situation, but I'm not at all surprised by these statistics," said Eran Weintraub, director of the humanitarian aid organization Latet, which regularly distributes food packages to the needy.
"It's very simple: Israel has no national program to tackle poverty, and with the markets now in recession the numbers joining the cycle of poverty has increased dramatically," he said, adding that his organization experienced an increase of 20% in requests for food aid before Rosh Hashana, coupled with a 30% drop in donations.
"Obviously the situation is more difficult for those who don't work, but it has also become hard for those who do work," continued Weintraub. "Many employers have cut back on salaries and benefits, while prices for basic goods are still rising."
Entitled, "The Face of Society: Objective and Subjective Indices of Poverty and Social Exclusion," the CBS report examines eight basic socioeconomic parameters: social, economic and employment hardship, poverty and social exclusion, welfare, education, health and transport. Poverty risk is defined as a household with disposable per capita income of less than 60% of the national median.
According to the report, the economic difficulties faced by some segments of the population are much more extreme than for others.
For example, in the Arab-Israeli community more than 70% of children were listed as at risk of poverty, compared to only 27% of Jewish children. And 26% of women are more likely to be at risk of falling into poverty, versus 24% of men.
The CBS also looked at the rate of people foregoing food due to economic reasons. It found that between 2003 and 2007, the number of children foregoing food increased by 7%, while 23% of women said they'd given up food compared to only 18% of men.
In the ultra-Orthodox community, more than twice as many people (30%) had to forego food due to the economic situation, compared to the secular population, which stood at 15%.
And the situation in the Arab sector was more severe, with the rate of foregoing food more than doubling between 2003 and 2007 (21% versus 50% respectively).