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Some 24,500 children have become impoverished in 2005, from 713,600 in 2004 to 738,100 in 2005, while 34.1 percent of all children in Israel are defined as poor. These were only some of the statistics revealed Monday afternoon when the poverty report put out by the National Insurance Institute (NII) was released.
Overall, poverty has risen in Israel. However, the rate of impoverishment has slowed in comparison to 2003 and 2004.
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Similar to the past two years, in the second half of 2004 and the first half of 2005 (the reporting period), the largest increase in impoverishment was among children.
In 2004, 394,200 families were defined as poor. In the period covered by the report, 403,400 families.
At the same time, the poverty gap remained stable at its current level and the standard of living increased, especially among the top 10% of the Israeli population.
It is the first time that they have decided to publish the report on a biennial basis. The last report appeared in August 2005.
National Insurance Institute director general, Dr. Yigal Ben Shalom, exclaimed, "This past year there was an increase of 1.2% in families with one provider. This points to the fact that there is no other way but to introduce a negative income tax in Israel."
The Labor reaction to the report was predictably harsh. At a press conference, ministers criticized Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for implementing policies, which directly led to Israel's current poverty crisis.
"Israel could be a third world country but alternatively it could raise its status and be comparable to Scandinavia. Voters should choose Labor for an all round improvement in their lives", said MK Isaac Herzog.
Avishai Braverman said that the Labor Party advocated mandatory pensions allowing people to retire comfortably. He also pledged radical changes to the country's budget including a policy of affirmative action.
MK Yuli Tamir focused on students: "We intend to introduce student loans which will be paid back on an income basis after our students have entered into the workplace".
Head of Meretz, Yossi Beilin, said that Kadima, Likud and Labor are responsible in equal measure for the tragedy that has turned Israel into one of the most socially polarized countries in the developed world.
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