The number of poor children in Israel decreased by about 1 percent last year, according to a report released yesterday by the National Council of the Child. But the situation is still grave, with about one of every three children reportedly living in poverty.
Meanwhile, nearly one-fifth of Israel's children have had contact with welfare authorities, according to the council's 20th annual statistical almanac, entitled "Children in Israel." "This report is a top-class barometer of Israeli society and its future, so it should be regarded with the utmost seriousness and respect, particularly since its purpose is to warn of problems and repair them before they happen," said President Shimon Peres, who accepted the report from council director Yitzhak Kadman yesterday.
"Israel will be facing stiff competition from many nations in the international markets and the ones who will give Israel its economic and technical advantage are today's children," Peres added. "The State of Israel is committed to the welfare and education of its children, who are the future backbone of the state."
Kadman said government ministries should study the report and use the information to improve the handling of Israel's children.
"It's time to view children as a real asset and not a budgetary burden or a political slogan," he said. "To start, I call upon the government to immediately implement the recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee [established in response to the summer's cost-of-living protest] that relate to children, which seem to have been shunted to the side and have disappeared from the agenda."
At the end of 2010 there were 2,519,900 children in Israel, comprising 32.7 percent of the population, according to the report. Over the past 40 years, the overall child population has more than doubled. Among Muslims the number of children has more than tripled.
As of January 2011, some 17 percent of the state's children were on file with social services departments, a rise of 48 percent since 2001, the report states.
Since 2006 there has reportedly been a 43.2 percent rise in the number of cases reaching juvenile court. And although 2010 reportedly saw a drop in police files opened for minors, 527 children under age 12 were questioned as criminal suspects in 2010, compared to only 177 in 2005.
In 2010, a reported 1,537 minors gave birth, marking the third consecutive year that births among minors dropped slightly. About a quarter of these births were among Jewish girls, while the rest were among Arabs, according to the report. More than a third of the births were reported in the Jerusalem area.
The number of children given up for adoption also continued to drop, according to the report, with only 78 such children recorded in 2010, compared to 91 in 2009 and 215 in 1995. International adoptions also are becoming less common, according to the report, with 124 such adoptions recorded in 2010 compared to 221 in 2007.
The council also studied media trends among teens. According to the report, of teenagers aged 15-18, 82.8 percent say the Internet is their main source of information. Another 7.2 percent cite television as their primary source of information and 3.6 percent say they get most of their information from newspapers.
More than half of Israeli teens spend their spare time at the mall, the report states, with 37.3 percent saying they visit the mall at least twice a week and another 28.2 percent saying they visit the mall once a week. Two-thirds of the teens surveyed visit clothing stores at least once a week, while more than half sit in a cafe at least once a week, the report states.
More than a quarter of teens aged 14-18 reportedly performed volunteer work during the 2009-10 school year. According to the report, the percentage of teen volunteers in the ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist communities far outnumbered those in the secular Jewish and Arab communities. A reported 41% of ultra-Orthodox teens performed volunteer work during the 2009-10 school year, compared to 39 percent of religious Zionist teens, 20 percent of Arab teens, and 15 percent of secular Jewish teens.
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