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The income gaps in Israeli society continued to grow in 2009, reported the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday. The richest 20% of Israelis made 40.6% of total household income last year, while the poorest 20% earned only 6.3% of the total.

The Gini coefficient, a measure of a country's income inequality, rose once again in 2009, said Prof. Avi Ben Bassat, a former Finance Ministry director general and now a professor of economics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The coefficient has been growing since 2006 and is worrying, said Ben Bassat.

"We are far from the level of OECD countries, where the average Gini [coefficient] is 0.31, compared to 0.37 here - a difference considered to be quite large. We are close to the level of inequality in the U.S.," he said.

Average household income is also dropping. The average household income from all sources - work, investments, allowances and other sources - is NIS 13,578 per month, a 1.5% drop in inflation-adjusted terms from 2008. After subtracting taxes, National Insurance payments and health tax, net household income was NIS 11,354 per month. This works out to NIS 4,143 per month per person.

The self-employed had higher average incomes than salaried workers.

Women still make 34% less than men

Men make up 51.3% of salaried workers. The average income for such men is NIS 9,526 per month gross, a 2.9% inflation-adjusted drop from 2008. For women the average is NIS 6,280, 34% less than for men.

Some of the gap can be attributed to the longer hours men work - 44.9 hours a week on average compared to 35.5 hours for women. But after this is accounted for, there remains a 15.5% gap in men's wages per hour compared to women's: NIS 50.40 and NIS 42.60 respectively.

This gap has not changed significantly over the past six years, though over the past 20 years it has shrunk from 43% to 34%. Around the world, the biggest wage gap between the sexes is in the U.S. and the smallest is in Sweden. Israel is close to the American numbers.

The biggest gender gap in wages is in sales, 25%; while unskilled male workers earn 10% more than their female counterparts in jobs such as cleaners and security guards.