Poverty rate lowest since 2003, report finds

Annual poverty report says 20% of families, a third of children living below poverty line, but shows minor signs of improvement.

A poor woman poverty impoverished homeless 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A poor woman poverty impoverished homeless 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The country has reached its lowest poverty levels since 2003, but still has significant problems in wealth disparity and impoverished children, according to the 2010 Poverty Report released on Thursday.
Twenty percent of Israeli families – some 1.7 million people – live in poverty. Among them are 873,000 children, about a third of the country’s youth, according to the document.
RELATED:Editorial: Poverty in Israel Lawmakers, social action NGOs to focus on job bills
While noting the “positive improvement in poverty indicators for the year 2010,” Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon called the poverty levels and wealth gaps “intolerable” and said they must change.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz noted that the report shows positive trends, such as a reduction in the “wealth gap.”
“I can inform you that for the first time we are seeing the beginning of narrowing gaps, the beginning of a poverty-reduction trend in all populations: the elderly, children, and the two most disadvantaged groups, the haredim and the Arabs. This is an important topic we are dealing with every day,” Steinitz said during an address to the Calcalist’s annual pension savings conference in Tel Aviv.
“The most important thing is to maintain economic investment growth, which allows increases in employment, decreased in unemployment and ultimately, a reduction in gaps,” he continued.
Steinitz also announced plans to present the cabinet in two weeks with a detailed proposal on improving financial education in Israel.
Rachel Evenbaum, the head of the Meir Panim organization, said the document did not reflect reality.
“It’s as if the people who wrote this report weren’t in Israel during 2010-11,” she said.
“The data doesn’t jive with the situation we see in the field. For many months the number of people coming to receive food products and hot meals in the soup kitchens that we operate has risen significantly. In addition, the number of children who come to Meir Panim’s after-school programs across the country has risen by 20 percent in the past two years. It’s important to remember that these children were referred by the welfare authorities in the various cities,” Evenbaum said.