Shas: We'll quit gov't over poverty

NII report reveals poverty levels remain the same, but gap between rich and poor widening.

poor 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
poor 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Shas may quit the government following the publication of the National Insurance Institute (NII) poverty report, which shows that the government was not doing enough to care for the plight of poor children, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai warned Thursday. "Shas will not remain in a government that remains closefisted towards the children of Israel," Yishai said. "What more needs to happen; how many more poverty reports need to come out until they understand that the only way to escape poverty is to reinstate welfare stipends." According to the report, poverty levels in Israel have remained unchanged but the overall rise in living standards means the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. An unexpected drop in living standards was registered among the elderly, comprising 20 percent of households in Israel, with poverty levels rising by two percent over the last year. Also, there was an increase in the number of working families considered poor, this following the entry into the job market of large numbers of low-salary and part-time employees. Raising welfare for the elderly did not result in ameliorating that sector's economic status. The NII hoped the additional increase in welfare for the elderly, which went into effect this January, would be reflected in next year's poverty report. The stable trend in poverty levels continued for a third successive year, the report showed, and the number of families whose income fell below the poverty line rose only slightly, to 20.5% compared with last year's figure of 20%. Another steady statistic demonstrated by the report was that the poorest areas in Israel remained Jerusalem, the North and the South. During 2006-2007, 420,000 families were registered as poor, or 1,674,800 citizens. Of this number, 805,000 were children. The report indicated a rise in the standard of living, reflected in overall salary increases of 1.6%. However, minimum wage was eroded by 3.6%. Recent increases in all forms of welfare were only slightly reflected during 2007, but a clearer reflection was expected in the next few years.