Number of Israeli poor drops slightly


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The number of poor in Israel dropped last year to its lowest levels since 2003, but one-third of Israeli children are living below the poverty line, according to a new report.

The National Insurance Institute’s 2010 poverty report shows that some 433,300 Israeli households, comprised of 1,733,400 individuals, are living below the poverty line. Some 837,000 of them are children.

In 2010, some 19.8 percent of Israeli families lived in poverty, compared to 20.5 percent in 2009, according to the report. Poverty in Israel is at its lowest level since 2003.

The percentage of working families living below the poverty line increased from 49 percent in 2009 to 50.6 percent in 2010.

Thousands of Israeli demonstrated over the summer calling for social justice and more economic equality. A government panel was established to respond to the protests.

The panel, known as the Trajtenberg committee, recommended expanding social welfare spending by $8 billion over five years.

"At the outset, my government set for itself the goal of reducing social gaps and the number of poor in Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the report’s release. "A main way to reduce gaps and lower the cost-of-living is to participate in the financing of children’s education, provide equal opportunities in education and personally invest in students. Implementing the Trajtenberg committee recommendations, as well as instituting a negative income tax, increasing participation in the labor force and continuing to lower unemployment will further improve the situation for weaker populations in Israel."

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