Child poverty rates increase among immigrants

Despite some improvements, data shows a "troubling picture"; says Yitzchak Kadman, chairman of the National Council for the Child.

Ethiopian children 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski (illustrative))
Ethiopian children 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski (illustrative))
Poverty rates among children of immigrants increased slightly in 2009, while the number of those committing crimes dropped, a report released Tuesday by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the National Council for the Child revealed.
The report, titled “Immigrant Children in Israel,” is published annually and tracks statistics about the welfare of immigrant children populations.
Immigrant children (including those born in Israel to parents who moved here) are often more prone to delinquency, dropping out of school, and require a higher percentage of social services, said Yitzchak Kadman, chairman of the National Council for the Child.
According to the study, more than 200,000 immigrant children lived in Israel in 2009, representing 9.6 percent of the population of Israeli children.
Many of these children grew up in development towns; and half had at least one parent that had moved from the former Soviet Union.
The report found that 27.9% of children of immigrants were poor in 2009, and lived in households with disposable incomes that were less than NIS 5,677 a month, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The poverty rate of this population rose 3% in one year.
The report attributed the increased poverty rates to cuts in national insurance benefits.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said in a statement that the report’s findings demonstrate that Israel must “invest in integrating immigrants … in order to minimize already existing gaps. The resilience of civil society is measured by its treatment of weaker demographics, such as immigrants – and even more so of immigrants’ children, who need more support and continual aid,” Landver said.
The economic difficulties of immigrant children are also reflected in the high percentage of children of immigrants enrolled in boarding schools for children at risk, the report wrote. Children of immigrants made up a quarter of students in such schools – almost three times the rate of the number of immigrant children in the general Israeli youth population.
Additionally the number of immigrant children on file with State Welfare Services in 2009 was three times the figure in 1999, reflecting increased distress in immigrant populations.
Kadman said that the report’s data reflects a dim reality.
“In spite of certain improvements in the conditions of immigrant children in various fields – such as the percentage of children enrolled in public schools, and a decline in juvenile delinquency – the data shows a troubling picture of these children’s conditions,” Kadman said in a statement.
He called on “state authorities to expend more funds and attention to immigrant children already living amongst us, especially children of second generation immigrants, who are often in more difficult situations.”
But Nicole Maor, executive director of the Legal Aid Center for Olim, which provides free legal services for immigrants, said she was surprised by the report’s high poverty rate among children of immigrants.
She said she has not seen an increase in immigrants who are having difficulty paying for other services in her practice.
The study noted that immigrant children also face other social and educational issues.
High school graduation rates of immigrant children lagged 10% behind the Israeli public in 2009. Additionally, 22% of immigrant children were raised in single-parent homes in 2009, compared to 7.2% of children in the general Israeli public.
The study did not specify which specific immigrant communities and children face the highest levels of poverty and difficulty acclimating to Israeli society, but Robbie Sassoon, executive director of Crossroads, a nonprofit that supports Anglo immigrants at risk, said the Anglo immigrant community is not immune from these challenges.
“Unfortunately, there is an assumption in the public that if you are Anglo, poverty doesn’t affect you,” Sassoon wrote in an e-mail. “At Crossroads … we see the results of a community of at-risk teens that the public doesn’t believe exists. Not only are there not many resources for them culturally, but many of the kids don’t have the Hebrew language skills to take advantage of the resources that do exist.”
He added that these findings are especially troubling because poverty and a lack of a support system “are two major risk factors that can lead youth towards the streets where drugs and other dangerous activities are all too available.”
The report analyzed statistics issued by different government ministries, including the Ministries of Education and Health. Kosher said that the report is intended to inform policymakers, and does not issue policy recommendations.