Mizrahi Children Twice as Likely to Be in Israeli Welfare System as Ashkenazim

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Israeli children at a summer camp.Credit: David Bachar

Twice as many children of Mizrahi origin than of Ashkenazi origin receive social assistance, at 13 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, of native-born Israelis under 18. A quarter of all Ethiopian-Israelis in this group is in the social welfare system. This, according to the annual Social Affairs Ministry report for 2013, which was released recently.

Around half of Israelis over 75 and a quarter of those from 12 to 17 years of age are in the welfare system. The number of children considered to be at-risk jumped 20 percent in the past decade, but by one estimate half of these children do not get the help they need. Social workers in northern and southern Israel have higher caseloads than their counterparts in the center, despite serving a population with greater needs.

The report’s authors were not surprised by the high proportion of Ethiopian-Israeli children in the welfare system, in light of the community’s ongoing absorption difficulties. The authors also note the “significant gaps between children of immigrants from Europe or America and children of immigrants from Asian and [North] African countries,” that is, between Ashkenazi and other Jews.

The figures relating to native-born Israelis do not single out Ethiopian-Israelis, referring instead to Israelis “of African origin.” Many parents of children in this group were born in Ethiopia, and the difference in the rate of welfare aid to the children of parents who were born in Africa and those who were born in Israel is negligible, at 24.3 percent and 24.1 percent, respectively.

Similarly, the difference in welfare aid to Israeli-born children with Israeli-born fathers and those whose fathers were born in Europe or America is almost nonexistent, at 7.9 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively. This finding echoes a study by Prof. Yinon Cohen of Tel Aviv University on educational gaps, as well as a Central Bureau of Statistics study reported in Haaretz last month.

The latter found that 28.8 percent of Israeli-born Mizrahim have an academic degree, compared to 49.6 percent for the native-born children of two Ashkenazi immigrant parents.

Over a quarter, 24.3 percent, of Israelis under 17 who were born in Ethiopia receive assistance. The figures for immigrant children born in Asia or in North Africa the figure was 11.5 percent, followed by those born in Europe or America (8 percent) and in the former Soviet Union who came to Israel from 1990 (4 percent).

Looking at the data for all ages shows significant gaps in the incidence of people registered in welfare agencies, based on country of origin. The incidence of welfare-assisted members of the second generation, people whose fathers were born in Europe or America, is lower by a factor of between two and three in comparison with those whose fathers were born in Asia or in North Africa — at 7.9 percent, 16.2 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively.

Community-based differences also apply to the first generation — Ethiopian Israelis top the list at 52.3 percent who receive assistance, with the incidence of Asian- or North African-born people standing at 17 percent and people with European or American fathers coming in at 13 percent.

The data shows that the number of children at risk has grown by 20 percent over the last decade, reaching 367,000 children in 2014. According to another definition, based on a national program for children and youth at risk, only half of the children who are identified as such receive professional help.

The program is shared by several government ministries and operates in 170 local councils, covering two thirds of Israeli children. “There are many children at risk who are not identified or treated within the welfare system,” says the annual report.

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