UNICEF child welfare report finds Israel among worst in developed world

One in three children is considered poor in the Jewish state, says UN agency

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

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

The UN’s child welfare agency said Israel has one of the worst records on child poverty in the world.

UNICEF’s Innocenti Report Card 14 on children in the developed world, released Thursday, ranked 41 European countries and members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

On a chart for country performance on nine child-welfare relevant goals Israel ranked 36 out of 37, above only Romania.

Chile, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and Turkey, although reviewed in the report did not rank due on the chart due to insufficient data, the report said. Norway topped the table followed by Finland.

The report also ranked efforts at reducing economic inequality, putting Israel at 39th place, above only Bulgaria and Mexico.

“Israel and Romania have the worst records on relative poverty – here more than one child in three is considered poor,” the report said, referring to the percentage of households that earn less than 60 percent of the national median.

“Living in poverty during childhood can do lifelong damage, with proven effects on health, nutrition, brain development and educational attainment. These effects can evolve into large earnings differences in adulthood.”

“However,” the report noted, “Bulgaria, Mexico, Spain, Turkey and the United States also have child poverty rates substantially above the rich-world average.”

According to report, one in three children in Israel (36.1%) lives in poverty compared to one in ten in countries such as Denmark, Iceland and Norway. The average for developed countries is one in five, the report said.

There were however, some positives.

Israel scored better on efforts to reduce hunger to zero, ranking 13th on the list, and 7th on a ranking of “good health and well-being.”

Some 7.4% of Israeli children below the age of 15 are considered food insecure, defined as a “lack of secure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that can ensure normal growth and development, as well as an active and healthy lifestyle.” That compared to the average among developed countries of 12.7% for the same age group.

At the other end of the food scale, obesity among 11-15 year-olds in Israel (14.3%) is below the international average of 15.2%.

The Social Welfare Ministry did not immediately comment on the findings of the report.

A December 2016 National Insurance Institute’s annual report on poverty found that a poor person in 2015 — the year covered by the report — was defined as one living on a monthly income of less than NIS 3,158 ($823). A poor family of four had less than NIS 8,086 ($2,107) to live on, a family of eight under NIS 13,139 ($3,423).

While only around 14% of Jews are poor, more than half of Arabs fall below the poverty line, the NII report found.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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