The poor in Israel became poorer in the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008, although the overall percentage of Israelis living below the poverty line remained largely stable, according to the semi-annual poverty report published by the National Insurance Institute.

The report states that 418,000 families were living below the poverty line, representing 1.63 million people, 777,400 of them children.

The percentage of unemployed poor families rose in relation to the previous report for 2007, from 69 percent to 71.4 percent. However, the percentage of working poor also rose: Families with two or more breadwinners living below the poverty line increased from 21.3 percent to 23.6 percent. (These families also became poorer by a rate of 7 to 10 percent.)

The report shows that the overall percentage of Arab citizens living below the poverty line declined from 51.4 percent in the second half of 2007 to 50.1 percent in the first half of 2008.

Commenting on this figure, Dr. Shlomo Swirski, the academic director of the Adva Center, a non-partisan policy analysis organization, noted: "when half the Arab population still lives below the poverty line, this is a national shame and it is difficult to see these figures as a source of pride in achievement."

The report also shows a decline in the percentage of senior citizens living below the poverty line, from 22.6 percent at the end of 2007 to 22.2 percent at the beginning of 2008. The decline has been attributed to the increase in senior citizens' benefits.

While the number of families below the poverty line in the center of the country decreased among the Jewish population, it rose among Arabs in both this region and the south. In Haifa and the north, however, the number of Jews below the poverty line rose, while the number of Arabs decreased.