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Social and Economic Inequality in Israel

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Social gaps fall mainly along religious, ethnic and national lines, exacerbating tensions among those left out. Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews comprise the weakest fifth of the population. Others most affected are elderly people, single-parent families, and children. Gaps also exist between Jews of European and African/Asian descent, as well as among immigrants since the 1990s.

As a result, one-fourth of Israelis are impoverished, double the average OECD rate. Israel, in fact, has the second highest poverty rate among OECD countries.

"Israel's level of economic inequality is one of the highest among developed countries." Among 34 OECD states, it ranks fifth. America is fourth and Chile first, testimonies to failed policies.

Israeli education is way under-funded. Per student expenditures are 36% lower on average than in OECD countries. As a result, teacher salaries are low. The profession is declining, and student performance suffers. As in America, education is being privatized, putting bottom line priorities ahead of teaching and learning, producing mediocre results.

In 1994, Israel enacted its National Health Insurance Law. Since then, services steadily deteriorated for lack of enough funding. As a result, Israelis are paying more out-of-pocket costs and getting less, and for many, expensive services and medications are unaffordable. For example, about one-third of Israelis forgo dental care. As a result, an estimated 50% of elderly citizens are toothless.

Budget cuts also impact housing, making it unaffordable for growing numbers. Large expensive apartments are emphasized. Nearly half of construction starts are for private investors, buyer groups and organizations, not working Israelis.

Moreover, with no in place controls, 20% of Israelis spend over half their disposable income on rent. At the same time, public housing is in short supply, less than one-third the amount available in 2002.

While official unemployment is 6.7%, average salaries are low, especially for women, earning around 60% of their male counterparts. Moreover, social benefits are eroding. As a result, 39% of Israelis say they can't subsist on what they're earning, and conditions are worsening, not improving.

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