Nearly a third of Israel’s children live below the poverty line — report
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Nearly a third of Israel’s children live below the poverty line — report

Among Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities, nearly two-thirds are considered poor, says National Council for the Child; Rivlin calls figures ‘very worrying’

Illustrative: Israeli schoolchildren, August 27, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Israeli schoolchildren, August 27, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)

Some 30 percent of the country’s children live below the poverty line, according to a report published Tuesday by the Israel National Council for the Child.

In its annual review, presented to President Reuven Rivlin, the council said that 880,230 children were living under the poverty line in 2018.

Welfare services were involved with the circumstances of 400,000 children — 14% of the total 2,934,000 children in the country in 2018, representing an increase of 37% since 2000.

One in every five Jewish children was found to be living under the poverty line during 2018, said the council, an independent children’s rights group.

In the ultra-Orthodox community, 60.4% were considered to live in poverty, an increase of 5% over the previous year. Among Arab children, 57.8% were in poverty, a drop of 3% compared to 2017.

Larger families were more likely to sink below the poverty line, the report found, such that nearly half the families of four or more children were not making ends meet. For families with five children that figure jumped to two-thirds. A quarter of single-parent families were also under the poverty line.

During 2018 there were 50,000 new reports filed for children requiring social workers’ attention. Of those, 31% were due to reasons of neglect and physical abuse accounted for another 25%. Twelve percent of the new cases were due to sexual abuse. In 71% of the cases the children were harmed by the person responsible for the family.

The number of criminal files opened due to sex offenses against minors was 2,544 in 2018, compared to 2,001 in 2011, an increase of 27%.

Children living in families that immigrated to the country since 1990 accounted for 16% of those registered with welfare services.

Over the past nearly two decades violence against children has increased, with 3,825 injured during 2018, nearly twice the figure for 2000.

In other details, the report found that half of the country’s children receive their first smartphone by the time they are 10-12 years old. Some 43% of parents admitted that they don’t limit screen time for their children.

However, there were some improvements recorded in other areas. During the period 2010-2018 there was slight drop in reports of children in grades 5-9 who said they were involved in violent incidents, the council reported. Among elementary school pupils there was a reduction from 17% to 9% and among middle-schoolers there was a decrease from 11% to 8%.

President Reuven Rivlin at a conference in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Rivlin said that despite improvements in some areas, there was serious cause for concern.

“The figures show that in some indicators there is an improvement, but also show that we have a lot of work to do,” the president said.

“The proportion of children subject to injury is increasing,” he said. “We were told of high percentages of poverty among children. These are very worrying figures.”

Vered Windman, CEO of the council, called on political leaders to bring an end to a political deadlock that has prevented the establishment of a permanent government for nearly a year.

“The government failure of the last year only deepens the hardships, the gaps, and the great lacking that the figures published today point to,” Windman said. “There must be a dramatic change. The parties, all of which are again facing public scrutiny, must commit to the voters and to the children in particular that they will fight for them in the coming Knesset.”

The INCC figures matched those of an annual report released by the National Insurance Institute in December that found 469,400 families consisting of 1.8 million people were designated as under the poverty line in 2018. Some 841,000 of those people were children.

The data, which did not include East Jerusalem, showed poverty rates had risen from 19.4 percent in 2017 to 20.4% the following year. Meanwhile child poverty climbed by two percentage points, from 27.1% to 29.1%. Poverty among the elderly also increased, from 17.2% to 18.8%.

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