Nathan Jeffay in Forward:
When Israel was invited to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it an international “seal of approval.” But a year later, it’s clear that membership in the elite group has brought anything but approval of the country’s direction in one key area: inequality.
Israel’s ascension last May to the OECD — an organization of the world’s most prosperous economies — has shone a spotlight on the economic strengths and weaknesses of the state, as compared with other OECD countries.
Growing by 7.8% last year, the Israeli economy ranked fifth highest in growth among the group’s 34 members. Israel’s growth outstripped that of the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany and France.
At the same time, the group has reported that poverty is almost twice as widespread in Israel, 19.9% of the population, compared to the OECD average, 10.9%. The gap between the overall standard of living in Israel and that of the lowest tenth of the population was three times higher than the OECD average. In its latest release of data, made public April 12, the OECD reported that 39% of Israelis find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to live on their current incomes, well above the OECD average of 24%.