Report: One-Third of Israeli Kids Live in Poverty

YERUSHALAYIM -

In its annual report, the National Council for the Welfare of Children said that Israel’s 18-and-under population was 2,768,700 — and that one-third of them were poor. The report was presented to President Reuven Rivlin Monday, with information and statistics about everything regarding the lives of Israeli children, including education, leisure activities, diet and other parameters. Since 1970, the population of Israelis 18 and under has doubled, but kids today constitute a smaller part of the population than in the past.

According to the report, 34 percent of children live in families with incomes at or below the poverty line, defined in Israel as 50 percent of the median income. Twenty percent of school-age children go to sleep hungry, the report claimed, while some 500,000 are listed as clients in the country’s welfare services. There has been controversy in the past regarding the way poverty is defined in Israel; the median income definition is subject to constant change and does not utilize a specific income level, as do poverty rates in many other countries.

The digital revolution has had a huge impact on Israeli youth. Eighty-six percent of 18-year-olds and under have a smartphone of their own, and they use it to communicate with friends. Many of them — 63 percent — are given devices by their parents in order to inform them of their whereabouts, while 27 percent are in primary contact with their grandparents. Use of social media is also very high.

Despite this, Israeli kids are very civic-minded; one third volunteer, mostly in the context of youth groups. Violence in secular schools is still a major problem, although the number of reports of violence between children or against teachers has fallen in the past nine years, the report said.

Commenting on the report, Rivlin said that he saw it “not just as testimony on the current situation, but a sort of indication and prediction on what we can expect in the future. I believe that the children are our future. If we cannot provide them with the material, legal, educational and emotional resources that can help protect them, our future will be a cloudy one indeed.”