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Is Israel at Risk

Of joining the Third World?

by
Michael Weiss
October 01, 2009

The most important takeaway from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics’ latest set of findings on Israel’s socioeconomic condition is one well articulated by Yuval Elbashan, the deputy director of Yedid, a national network of economic advice centers for Israeli citizens. Quoted in Nathan Jeffay’s Forward article on the report, which is due out later this month and reportedly offers an ominous appraisal of the Israeli economy, Elbashan correlated the precipitous rise in those Israeli adults “at risk” of poverty, now estimated at about 30 percent of the entire population, with the gradual disappearance of the country’s middle class. “When Israel was a traditional welfare state until 1984 or 1985,” Elbashan told Jeffay, “15 percent to 20 percent of people considered themselves poor, 60 percent to 70 percent middle class and others the upper part of society. When you see more people ‘at risk’ of poverty, it means that people from the middle class are becoming similar in character—in living from day to day and not saving—to the poor.” And that means Israel’s First World economy—born largely of a boom in technology industries and the influx of venture capital, about which George Gilder wrote lucidly for the last issue of City Journal—is at risk of returning to a Third World standard of living.

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