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Income inequality greater in Israel than any EU country

JERUSALEM, Oct 18 – Income inequality is greater in Israel than in any of the 27 countries in the European Union, Israel\’s central bureau of statistics said in a report published on Monday.

The average income after-tax for the wealthiest 20 percent of Israelis is 7.5 times higher than the poorest 20 percent of society, said the report which was based on 2008 data.

The gap between the rich and poor in Israel has been steadily increasing, with the average respective incomes of the same groups 6.5 times apart 10 years ago.

By comparison, the wealthiest section of EU society earns around five times more than the poorest group.

In 2008, 29 percent of Israelis ran the risk of falling below the poverty line compared with 27 percent in 2000, the report said. This category refers to those whose jobs are threatened or whose average monthly income divided by the number of family members is less than 2,000 shekels (400 euros).

The number rises sharply, to 38 percent, for Israeli children because of the proportionately larger Arab Israeli and ultra-Orthodox Jewish families, the two poorest communities in Israel.

Within the EU, by contrast, 19 percent of society lives close to the poverty line.

Despite the widening social gap, 86 percent of Israelis over 20 years old say they are satisfied with their quality of life, according to the statistics bureau.

Though not an EU member, Israel accepted an invitation to join the OECD club of rich economies in May and is tied to the European bloc by an association agreement.

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