Israel has the highest level of child poverty in the world’s 41 most developed countries, according to a United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report released yesterday. Some 27.5 per cent of children in the country live in poverty, higher than rates in Mexico, the report showed.
The report, “Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries,” documents inequalities in child well-being amongst EU countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In all indicators outlined in the report; income, education, health and life satisfaction, Israel ranked amongst the lowest, ranking last in terms of health inequality.
Child poverty rates in Israel:
- 27.5% live in poverty
- 18.5% are below level 2 in three subjects in school
- 29.7% report one or more health symptom each day
- 7.7% have a life satisfaction rate of 4/10 or less
“Understanding the differences among countries in how far the most disadvantaged children fall behind their average peers can provide some insight into the conditions or interventions that may help to reduce the gaps,” said Dr Sarah Cook, director of UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy.
“As concern with high levels of inequality rises on the global policy agenda, our understanding of the long term impacts of inequality is also growing: what happens to children has life-long and even intergenerational consequences,” said Cook.
“Any serious efforts to reduce inequality must place priority on children’s well-being today and ensure that all children are given opportunities to achieve their potential,” she said.
Israeli politicians were quick to respond to the report. The Jerusalem Post quoted Joint List MK Dov Henin saying: “The poverty rate among Israeli children… is not our fate; it’s the result of a policy. Whoever cuts welfare services, privatises the education system and dries out public health is knowingly leading to a reality in which children go to school hungry and parents have difficulty finding the money to pay for children’s dental care or textbooks.”
Adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies are “endangering children’s lives.”