Jerusalem, Oct 17: About 31 percent of Israel’s population is at risk of being plunged into poverty, almost twice the rate of poverty risk in the European Union, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics report showed Wednesday.
The rate of population at risk of poverty — families whose total incomes are less than 60 percent of the median income in Israel which is $1,660 per household — rose from 26 percent in 2001 to 31 percent in 2011, Xinhua reported.
The rate in 2011 is even higher than in Spain and Greece, in which 20 percent of the population was at risk of poverty, although both countries received at that time an EU emergency aid programme to avoid insolvency.
The report also shows some 40 percent of children in Israel are at risk of poverty — double the rate in Europe.
The higher rate is mainly the result of constant cutting in welfare benefits, a policy that dominated Israeli economy for the past 30 years, especially due to the huge cuts since 2003, according to Momi Dahan, head of the Federmann School of Public Policy and Government at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“Israel’s spending on social security and welfare accounts for about 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), lower than 24 percent on average in other developed countries,” Dahan said.
In addition, Dahan said, the criteria for unemployment benefit eligibility are very strict and the number of unemployed considered as eligible for benefit is the lowest among developed countries. “It practically means that most unemployed people in Israel are not entitled for benefits.”
Dahan added that this year’s austerity budget “continues the current policy of cutting welfare spending, mainly through cuts in children benefits, which now became even lower.”