Arab Israelis left out of economic boom

Government and business community have neglected the Arab population, rights group says.
Arab Israelis left out of economic boom
Mon 05 May 2008 11:44 PM

The economic situation of Israel's Arab population has deteriorated since 2003 despite the Jewish state's economic boom in the past four years, an Israeli rights group said on Monday.

Israel's sustained economic growth between 2003 and 2007 "did not benefit all of the Israeli population in the same way, even among Jews. But among the Arab population, we found an economic regression," said Shlomo Svirski, director of Adva, a non-partisan centre for equality and social justice.

"The government and the business community have neglected the Arab population. We are looking for government to invest in developing the economic infrastructures of the Arab areas," Svirski said.

The report published on Monday pointed to the 10.9% unemployment rate among Israeli Arabs in 2007, compared with a rate of 7.3% for the overall population, down from 10.7% in 2003.

Poverty among Arab families in Israel rose 29% between 2001 and 2007. In comparison, among ultra-Orthodox Jewish families, also considered a disadvantaged group, poverty rose by 9%in the same six-year period.

By 2007 more than half of Israeli Arab families were living below the poverty line, the report by the Tel Aviv-based group said.

According to statistics from the National Insurance Institute of Israel, the poverty line in 2007 for a family of four stood at 5,191 shekels (about $1,266) a month.

While the economic situation for Israeli Arabs deteriorated, the Jewish state was undergoing its longest period of uninterrupted economic expansion, from 2003 to 2007.

The report noted that Israel's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a 5% annual rate on average since the second quarter of 2003.

The Arab population of Israel, mostly descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who did not flee after the founding of the Israeli state in 1948, number around 1.2 million people out of a total population of 7.1 million.

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