40% of children at risk for poverty, says CBS report

Some 31% of Israelis are close to the poverty line; Israeli rates are twice the rates of European countries.

Poverty in J'lem 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Poverty in J'lem 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Some 40 percent of children in Israel were at risk for poverty as of 2011, compared with 20% in the European Union, data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday reveals.
In Israel and in most countries of the European Union, children and seniors are at greater risk of poverty than people between the ages of 18 to 64, the CBS said, as part of its sixth Society in Israel Report.
Moreover, about 31% of Israelis were at risk of poverty – that is, close to the poverty line – as of 2011, up from 26% in 2001.
The EU average is 17%. People in Spain and Greece are at the highest risk for poverty in the EU.
In 2011, about 41% of single- parent families were at risk for poverty, compared to 35% in most European countries.
“The data speaks for itself,” Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, of the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “One thing sticks out particularly and it’s that the rates in Israel are twice the rates of European countries.”
Ben-Arieh, whose expertise includes child welfare, measuring and monitoring children’s well-being, social policy, children’s rights and the sociology of childhood, attributed this to “an economic policy that constantly increases the socioeconomic gaps and cuts down aid provided by the National Insurance Institute.
“The poverty line is very precise, it’s determined by a specific amount,” he added, “but for people who are one shekel above that, they are still at risk for poverty. Most of the population is close to the poverty line, and only a very few are very far from it.”
Ben-Arieh emphasized that the phenomenon concretely shapes the everyday lives of the children concerned.
“What this means is that the parents need to think twice before sending their child to extracurricular activities and they have to think twice before buying their child some expensive medicine,” he told the Post. “The child ultimately becomes a less enriched, less healthy child: he can’t get tutoring lessons, medical treatment beyond what is provided by the basket of health services [provided by the health funds]. He is less involved in society, and in most cases he also had no computer or Internet and is less able to connect with the world.”
The solution, Ben-Arieh believes, is to “expand the system of assistance” by making it universal, unrelated to the family’s financial situation, to provide help for those in need and “make sure people are working.
“It’s just a question of society deciding to either take care of this or not to,” he said. “It needs to decide whether we lower the salaries of government leaders to benefit more people or not, and whether the minimum salary should be a dignified one or not.
“Dealing with poverty is the mission of the government and only the government,” Ben-Arieh said. “Whoever thinks that NGOs and all sorts of philanthropic ventures should take care of it doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”