Child poverty here highest in OECD

"Most recent trends show widening gap between poor and rich in high-inequality countries, such as Israel and US," says organization.

By
May 4, 2011 02:53
2 minute read.
A homeless man lies on a sidewalk

poverty homeless dirty 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Israel has the highest rate of child poverty among the 35 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with more than a quarter of children living in poor households, a report issued by the Paris-based organization has revealed.

According to the report, titled “Doing Better for Families,” 26.6 percent of Israeli children, a much higher rate than in Denmark, which has the best record at 3.7%. The OECD average is 12.7%.

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The report also notes that while countries with high levels of female employment tend to have low child poverty rates, Israel, Portugal and the US are the exceptions to this rule.

“This [problem] could be addressed by developing and/or extending existing inwork benefits drawing on the extensive cross-country experience to design them in a costeffective manner,” such as the earned-income tax credit in the United States, and childcare supports for working families,” the OECD recommends in the report. “Recent experience in the United Kingdom shows that a combination of measures setting a relatively low wage floor, targeted working family cash benefits (with subsidies for sole-parent families) and an increase in childcare places and subsidies can help.”

The report was released late last week, ahead of this week’s meeting in Paris of representatives from social welfare ministries in the 35 countries, to discuss the social challenges facing their own citizens.

Nahum Itzkovitz, directorgeneral of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, attended the meetings, which also looked at the social impact of the global economic crisis and the various social policies implemented to support recovery.



In addition, the conference examined ways to enhance the well-being of children, promote gender equality in employment, and innovative approaches to improve service delivery for vulnerable families, the OECD said.

In a statement from the organization on Tuesday, it said that those at the conference had taken note of the ever-increasing inequalities between rich and poor, making the “average income of the richest 10 percent of the population about nine times that of the poorest 10% in OECD countries.

“The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States,” read the statement, adding, that countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend.

Reforming tax and benefit policies was one of the most direct and powerful instruments to address this imbalance, the OECD said.

It said that countries must “facilitate and encourage access to employment for underrepresented groups.”

“This requires not only new jobs, but jobs that enable people to avoid and escape poverty,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Recent trends towards higher rates of in-work poverty indicate that job quality has become a concern for a growing number of workers. Policy reforms that tackle inequalities in the labor market, such as those between standard and non-standard forms of employment, are needed to reduce income inequality.”

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