Unemployment Chief Cause of Failure to Pay Debts, Poll Shows

Bank Leumi credit cards. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Few are the people who default on a debt because they don’t feel like paying, a new poll by the Israel Consumer Association shows. According to the poll, cited by Yediot Acharonot, a lack of income due to unemployment is the chief cause of failing to pay back a debt – which is usually addressed by the debt holder calling in the state debt collector (hotza’a lapo’al) to retrieve their debt.

Under the law, any individual or organization with a debt can appeal to the state for collection, and in lieu of cash, the debt collection agency can seize cars, furniture, appliances, or anything else of value in a home. Nearly three quarters – 71 percent – of those who have had assets seized said that they had tried very hard to pay back the debt or otherwise work out a payment plan, but had failed. Twenty-one percent said they were in the process of or had already declared bankruptcy. Other reasons for failing to pay back debts included business failures, mismanagement of savings, being cheated out of money, and family fights in which one party closed off access to funds and bank accounts.

According to the poll, at the end of 2015 (the last year for which full data was available) there were 642,629 Israelis who owed money that was to be collected by the state debt collector. According to officials, this was the first time that an organized poll had been taken of debtors, and the debt collection agency would take into account its results when formulating future policy on how to collect debts from those whom it is called on to collect from.

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