Israel: Over half of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants live in poverty
The average 2006 monthly salary among Israelis who immigrated from Ethiopia or whose parents immigrated from there was NIS 2,000, half that of other Israeli Jews, according to a Bank of Israel report set to be released next week.
The report also reveals that Ethiopians earn less than Israeli Arabs, who earn an average of NIS 2,700 a month.
According to the report, 52 percent of Ethiopian families in Israel are poor. They make up 16 percent of all families living below the poverty line.
Because a large portion of the community is uneducated and lacks professional skills, most Ethiopian immigrants are unemployed. Many of those who find work are employed through contractors, and thus earn low wages and are eligible for minimal social benefits. About 40 percent of immigrants of working age have at most an elementary-school education. Only 56 percent of Ethiopian Jews are part of Israel's workforce, as opposed to 76 percent of the Jewish population as a whole.
Of the working Ethiopians, half earn less than NIS 22 an hour, well under the Israeli median of NIS 34.5 an hour, according to the report.
The median salary among immigrants from the former Soviet Union is also comparatively low, currently standing at NIS 25.20 an hour.
The lack of education among the Ethiopian community does not bode well for the future. Many children of Ethiopian descent study in trade schools, boarding schools, special education institutions and religious schools. Furthermore, the community has a high percentage of dropouts. In addition, only 44 percent of Ethiopian high-school students pass their matriculation exams, as opposed to 57 percent among the general population.
The Ethiopian immigrant community totaled 106,000 at the end of 2005, of whom 33,000 were born in Israel. According to the report, the state invested some NIS 400,000 in the absorption of each immigrant between 1994 and 2003.
While the report does note significant progress in the integration of Ethiopian immigrants in recent years, many demographic characteristics hinder this process. For instance, the average Ethiopian family has a relatively large number of children, and usually they are cared for by only one parent, or elderly parents.
Since the majority of Ethiopian families live in several disadvantaged neighborhoods, the report recommends that Ethiopian immigrants be dispersed more around the country.
The report also recommends more public-sector affirmative action policies and extra funding for schools with many Ethiopian students.
The spokeswoman of the campaign for equality for Ethiopian Jews, Pnina Tameno, commented: "Regrettably this is not new to us. This is the reality we live with, but everybody ignores it. These are not the problems of only the community, but of society as a whole."
Knesset Economic Affairs Committee chair Moshe Kahlon and MK Michael Eitan (Likud) said they would ask for an urgent Knesset debate on the findings during the recess. "The blunders in absorbing the Ethiopian immigrants reflect the Zionist Movement's moral bankruptcy," Kahlon said.
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