Piggy banks
The proportion of working poor grew bigger last year. Photo by Tali Shani
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Haaretz
Tent protest: "Food, public housing, education. Stop poverty!" Photo by Haaretz

Despite continued economic growth and a drop in unemployment last year, the proportion of working poor got bigger last year, according to the National Insurance Institute's annual poverty report, published on Thursday.

Overall, the incidence of poverty and income disparity remained steady - still among the worst in the economically developed world.

Poverty levels among working families rose from 19.4% to 20% based on their financial incomes between 2010 and 2011, and from 13.2% to 13.8% based on disposable incomes.

The proportion of working poor families in relation to all poor families of working age increased from 62.4% in 2010 to 64.8% in 2011. In 1999, only about 7% of working families were considered poor based upon their disposable income, about half of last year's 13.8% rate.

The report indicated a sharp increase in poverty in families with two or more breadwinners, a group that for many years been considered immune from poverty. The rate grew from 2% at the beginning of the past decade to 4.6% in 2011.

Overall, Israel had 442,200 poor families in 2011 - a total of 1,838,600 people, of whom 860,900 were children. The general poverty rate rose from 19.8% of the population in 2010 to 19.9% last year.

One bright spot, however, was the incidence of poverty among the elderly, which has declined since hitting a high in 2004. There has also been a decline in the proportion of families with adults of working age who are not employed, follow a long-term government policy encouraging those individuals to work, and against the backdrop of an improved economy. Nonetheless, the extremely high level of poverty among families in which no one worked continued to go up - from 70.1% in 2010 to 70.7% in 2011.

The contribution of state allowances and tax policies to the reduction of poverty remained constant and was a major factor in lifting many families out of poverty. Of the families who would be defined as poor based on their own financial incomes, 39.3% were boosted out of poverty in 2011 due to government assistance.

Based on 2010 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the grouping of developed economies including Israel, this country was in the very top ranks of the unenviable list of member countries regarding poverty and income inequality. NII director-general Shlomo Mor-Yosef said the findings show Israel needs to tackle the poverty issue and aim to bring the country up to the OECD average.

"In order to do that," he said, "we must use every policy tool: investment in education, appropriate training for the workplace, encouraging people to work, creating proper work and salary conditions, and providing stipends at appropriate levels for those seeking to integrate into the workplace."

Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, a national food bank, said in response to the poverty report that the current government has failed to address poverty "just as all of the prior governments have." He said the effects of poverty are widespread, affecting education and opportunities for personal and social development.

Poverty levels among working families continued to rise, the NII national Insurance Institute report released yesterday states, going from 19.4% to 20% based on their financial incomes between 2010 and 2011, and from 13.2% to 13.8% based on disposable incomes. This increase occurred despite a 2011 recovery in the job market.

The proportion of working poor families in relation to all poor families of working age increased from 62.4% in 2010 to 64.8% in 2011. In 1999, slightly more than a decade earlier, only about 7% of working families were considered poor based upon their disposable income, about half last year's 13.8% rate.

The report indicated a sharp increase in poverty in families with two or more breadwinners, a group that for many years been considered immune from poverty: The rate grew from 2% at the beginning of the past decade to 4.6% in 2011.

The percentage of individuals also increased: from 24.4% to 24.8% and the percentage of children living in poor families rose from 35.3% to 36.6%.

Most of the remaining poverty indicators remained close to their previous high levels: Quality of life based on median per capita disposable income remained virtually unchanged in real terms (up 0.2% ), as did the threshold of poverty, which is set based upon that figure. On the brighter side, the long-term decline in poverty levels among the elderly continued from 2004's record 25.1% to 19.4% in 2011.