It's Bush's fault! He needs to send more aid!
One of every four Israelis is poor, 2005 poverty report shows
By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent
Half a million Israelis have fallen below the poverty line over the past five years, representing some 100,000 families, according to the National Insurance Institute (NII) poverty report to be released on Monday. During that same period of time, Israel's population increased by about 8 percent, but the number of poor increased by 45 percent.
Over the past five years, the number of poor people in Israel grew from 1,088,100 in 2000 to nearly 1.6 million in 2005, the report says. The data in the report cover the second half of 2004 and the first half of 2005.
According to the last poverty report, released in August 2005 and relating to 2004, 1,534,300 Israelis were below the poverty line - 23.6 percent of the population. In 2000, on the other hand, 18.8 percent of the population was defined as poor, meaning that five years ago, one in every five Israelis was poor, and by 2005, the number had risen to one in four.
The number of poor children has grown considerably over the past five years. In 2000, 25.2 percent of Israel's children were poor, and in 2004, the number was 33.2 percent. The number of poor children rose from 482,000 in 2000 to 714,000 last year, and is continuing to rise.
The greatest change revealed by the report is in the number of Israelis whose income is below the poverty line and who are able to rise above it with the assistance of NII benefits and other forms of support.
Since 2000, the number of Israelis whose gross income from work placed them below the poverty line has risen: In 2000 they constituted 30.8 percent of the population, and in 2004, the percentage had risen to 33.6 percent. In 2000, benefits enabled 39 percent of the poor to rise above the poverty line but by 2004 they helped only 30 percent of the poor to do so.
The number of poor families has also increased over the past five years. Just before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office in 2000 there were 305,000 families living under the poverty line, which represented 17.6 percent of all Israeli families.
In 2004, the number had risen to 394,000 and for the first time crossed the 20 percent line to 20.3 percent of all families.
It is estimated that the NII report for 2005 will indicate a stabilization in the number of poor families in the country.
The poverty line, defined as half the median disposable income in Israel, has not changed by much in recent years. In 2000 it was NIS 1,753 per person per month, and in 2004 it had risen to NIS 1,777. No significant further rise is expected in Monday's report.
Poverty struck families with both unemployed and working heads. It affected more Arabs than Jews, and larger families more than smaller ones. In 2000, 35 percent of families with an unemployed head were poor, while in 2005 the number rose to 39 percent. The percentage of poor families with a working head rose from 38 percent to 41 percent. The number of poor Arabs rose from 28 percent to 31 percent; the number of poor families with four or more children rose from 18 percent to 21 percent.
The percentage of senior citizens and new immigrants among the poor has dropped, believed to be partially accounted for by the drop in immigration to Israel over the past five years.
Poverty in Israel in 2005 is impacted by conflicting trends: On the one hand, economic growth has reduced unemployment and raised salaries, but in most cases, NII benefits, which are the main source of income in the lower percentiles, have not grown and child allowances have been shrinking since 2003.