In stark contrast to its position as a leader in science and technology, Israel lags behind other industrialized countries when it comes to poverty.
The Jewish state has the ignominy of having the highest poverty rate amongst all OECD nations. National Insurance Institute figures, Israel’s social security agency, says almost 20% of all Israelites live below the poverty line. Poverty is extreme amongst senior citizens and children, who are two especially vulnerable sections of society. This leads to the question, why is this happening?
Reasons For High Poverty Rate In Israel
This abject condition of Israel when it comes to poverty is due to a combination of factors. Let’s examine these causes in brief:
- High Cost Of Living
Living costs are exceptionally high in Israel, making many citizens unable to purchase even the necessities they need to survive daily. Many things that residents of other countries would take for granted are a luxury to a substantial number of Israelites, and Israel and the people supporting Israel should note that. To cite an example, during the winter months, it’s often a choice between heating or eating for such Israeli citizens. It is perhaps needless to mention that it is a choice no person in the world should need to make, let alone a citizen of an industrialized country.
- High Defense Expenditure
Israel is a country that has plenty of enemies in the international world, which means that Israel needs to spend more on its defense than other nations. It is not as if Israel lacks in wealth. Still, its security needs make it necessary to spend $15.95B in 2018 alone on security. This high percentage of GDP allocated to defense and safety could have been a comprehensive solution to Israel’s social security needs. That is not to say that Israeli lawmakers are wary of providing better living conditions to its citizens. But the fact is that Israel has a precarious situation security-wise. Accordingly, it must do its best to ensure that the country and it as a refuge for most Jews remain adequately safeguarded.
- Lack Of Adequate Enthusiasm For Employment
The Haredi citizens of Israel deserve special mention while discussing people below the poverty line in Israel. The Haredi are one of the most poverty-stricken population demographics in Israel. A large number of Haredim lack financial resources only since they are not employed. Usually, most of such unemployed Haredim men take up religious study as a full-time occupation. But what causes the problem is that the community frowns upon the practice of gainful employment. As per Israel’s Ministry of Labor figures, approximately 50% of Haredi men are employed. However, Haredi women fare better when it comes to employment as approx. 75% are employed, which is pretty close to the national average of the Israeli people at large. The lack of suitable, modern education is another reason responsible for the low employment rate of the Haredim.
Unequal Distribution Of Poverty In Israel
One important aspect of poverty in Israel that is likely to gather your attention is that it doesn’t affect all sections of society equally. As mentioned before, the elderly and the children are more susceptible to poverty in Israel than in other age demographics. Almost 33% of Israeli children are subject to poverty. For seniors, the figures stand at 20%. In terms of social demographics, Israel’s Haredi and Arab populations are more vulnerable to the same. In terms of stats, 40% of the Haredim and 50% of Israel’s Arabs are poor.
Solving The Problem Through Education
Israel needs to take the threat posed by poverty very, very seriously. It needs to do so before it becomes a menace big enough to threaten its internal situation. Besides, better social security will enhance the quality of life across all societal sections.
Standardized And Better Quality Education
The first thing Israel and its well-wishers need to do to reduce the sting of poverty amongst its residents is to focus on proper education. The better educated are in a better position to get better employment with better compensation. Accordingly, Haredi schools need to teach mainstream subjects like science and math. These form the bare bones of education as it stands today, and no person can expect to get good employment opportunities without essential skills in these subjects. It wouldn’t suffice to teach these subjects, but you need to teach them well. The quality of education needs to be enhanced for all sections of society.
A standardized educational system that includes schools for Arab and Haredi children promises to work well for Israel. It is something the authorities must consider. Students of Arab schools score lower than their mainstream counterparts in standardized tests consistently, which bears its need. Additionally, the country needs to introduce Arab as an optional medium of instruction in higher education.
As political play carries on in Israel, the country needs to focus on fighting poverty. Being able to resist external enemies losing the war of internal stability is quite futile. And poverty is well known for its ability to disrupt. Just like protecting Israeli citizens from terrorists and missiles, it is also crucial for it to ensure that its citizens are warm, comfortable, and well-fed.