Men Receive More Than Half of Israel's Welfare Spending

Some 56% is used for male homelessness, drug addiction, and alcoholism; the primary female recipients are victims of violence.

A homeless person lays on a dirty stone step in Israel.
Olivier Fitoussi

More than half of Israel’s welfare budget goes to services for men, notably for relief of homeless people, drug addicts and alcoholics. Allowances for women often go to victims of violence.

The Social Affairs Ministry says 56 percent of allocations go to men and 44 percent to women.

“This is the first time we’ve examined these figures and discovered the difference between the number of men and women in the various services,” said Miriam Baron, the official in charge of gender equality at the ministry.

According to Yekutiel Tzeva, the head of the ministry’s research and planning department,

“A lot needs to be explained here and we’ll analyze the figures thoroughly.”

The figures show that 87 percent of the budget allocated for homeless people is spent on men. Also, 80 percent of the budget is spent on treating male drug and alcohol addicts.

Ministry officials say more men apply for help or are referred to get help in this area. It’s also possible that many women need help but do not turn to the ministry, or there are not enough programs suitable for them, the officials said.

Three-quarters of mentally impaired people helped by the ministry are men, and 65 percent of the budget earmarked for ultra-Orthodox youth who have left home is spent on men.

“There aren’t enough places for homeless women, precisely because it’s known as a men’s problem,” said Barbara Svirsky, head of Israel’s Adva Center for social research. “When there are few women [suffering a problem], the issue doesn’t get attention, so this could be the reason for the makeup of the budget.”

Some 89 percent of the young people sent to the ministry’s Juvenile Probation Service are male. Among minors in youth services such as youth at risk and delinquents, 63 percent are boys.

“In view of these figures, we’ll check if there are women in distress who aren’t being allocated any money because we can’t reach them,” Baron said.

As Svirsky put it, “Men have institutions to take care of them. Studies show that when boys are in distress they usually become a social problem and harm others as well. But girls in distress only harm themselves, so they’re less visible and the authorities invest a lot less money in taking care of them.”

In contrast, 72 percent of the budget at centers for violence is spent on women.

“The authorities aren’t always aware of the extent of sexual crimes against men,” one official said.