Most Israeli Arabs Don't Have Retirement Nest Egg, Survey Reveals

Just 35% of Israeli Arabs have a pension savings plan and only 28% have life insurance, compared with 77% and 56% of Israeli Jews.

Just 35% of Israeli Arabs have a pension savings plan and only 28% have life insurance, compared with 77% and 56% for Israeli Jews, New Wave Research said in a poll commissioned by the Migdal insurance company.

The pollsters also looked at Israeli Arabs who are employed, whether self-employed or on salary. The disparities between Arabs and Jews persisted.

Among employed Arabs, 56% had pension plans. Among salaried employees not self-employed, 62% has pension plans. These two numbers for Israeli Jews were 85% and 90%, respectively.

Migdal's head of marketing and business development, Tony Cohen, attributes the disparity in the savings rates to cultural differences.

"There's a difference in the structure of consumer economics in Arab society. It's a traditional, patriarchal society where support structures are based on the traditional household, meaning that the father provides a home for his children and they have responsibility to look after his well-being later in life," Cohen said.

"But in the last 10 to 15 years, Arab society has undergone a significant change," Cohen noted, citing the influence of the Internet and Western television. And larger numbers of Arab women were joining the workforce.

"[Arab] society has become much more consumer-oriented than in the past, and as a result, the need exists to replace the old model of support when it comes to pension savings, awareness of which is much greater [now] than in the past."

Despite the evolution in attitudes about retirement savings, Israeli Arabs say it's acceptable to start saving for retirement at a later age, the poll shows.

Among the Arab respondents, the optimum age to start saving for retirement was seen at 29, while for Jews it was 24. The Israeli Arab segment of the poll was conducted by phone in Arabic among a representative sample of 400 people between 28 and 65.

The poverty rate among Israeli Arabs is higher than among Israeli Jews, particularly when the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population is excluded. A lack of disposable income may therefore affect the decision on whether to set aside money for retirement.

Neither Jews nor Arabs said they had played a major part in choosing their pension savings plans. Among Israeli Arabs, 75% said the decision on which company would provide their retirement plan was made by an insurance agent or their employer.

Just 11% said they had made the choice alone, while 7% said it was a joint decision with an agent. The responses here among Jews were similar.

Ofer Vaknin