Food distribution in Ashdod, southern Israel.  - Ilan Assayag
Food distribution in Ashdod, southern Israel. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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Israel poverty levels fell slightly in 2010, and is now at the lowest level since 2003, according to the annual poverty report published by the National Insurance Institute on Thursday.

According to the report, 19.8% of Israeli families suffered from poverty in 2010, compared to 20.5% in 2009.

The number of children living below the poverty line fell from 36.3% in 2009 to 35.3%, and the overall percentage of Israeli citizens living in poverty also fell – from 25% in 2009, to 24.45.

There were total of 433,300 poor families in 2010, comprised of 1,733,400 people. Of these, 837,300 were children.

These new figures bring Israel back to same levels they were at between 2007 and 2009. The main reason for the change, according to the report, is an expansion of employment data. Despite the drop in the number of Israelis living in poverty, however, the measures that estimate the severity and depth of poverty have not seen significant change, even rising a little from 35.5% to 35.9%.

The slight drop in poverty levels was evident across the majority of social sectors, including the elderly, single-parent families and large families. Despite this, the percentage of working families in poverty rose from 49% in 2009, to 50.6% in 2010.

Following the publication of the report, Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon said “despite the drop in poverty levels in 2010, the differences in poverty from year to year do not manage to change the sad situation in recent years. One fifth of families and around one third of children in Israel are poor, therefore I turn to the government to intervene in a more meaningful and widespread manner in order to fight and reduce poverty.”

National Insurance Institute director general Esther Dominissini on the other hand, said that “although there was a drop in poverty levels in most communities in 2010, and this is really good news, poverty levels in Israel are still high and they are in double figures. Inequality is too high, both in absolute terms in in comparison with the OECD.”