Saturday, May 24, 2014

Poor Mermaids

We were in Bat-Yam* the other day learning about issues of poverty. My colleague Jack Habib from Myers-JDC-Brookdale gave a fascinating overview about poverty in Israel.

Bat-Yam has a massively disproportionate level of poverty. So it was an appropriate location to discuss poverty rates and what they mean.

Israel has the highest poverty rate in the West - 25% (1.8m). 36% of all children (860,000) live under the poverty level.

But here's the really fascinating bit: poverty rates differ among different population groups. So 54% of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) and 54% of Arab-Israelis are poor. But 39% of Ethiopian-Israelis and 19% of the elderly are classed that way. Among non-Haredi Jews, only 12% are under the poverty line.

So .... the continued growth of Haredim and Arab-Israelis as a percentage of the population, by definition, is going to increase poverty rates in Israel unless we change their employment rates and earnings capacity. It's going to be a national priority. And a Zionist one.

*"Mermaid", or "Daughter of the Sea," or "Daughter of Jerusalem." Depends on which local you believe.

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