Single-parent families account for 12.8% of all families with children in Israel and in total there are about 170 thousand single-parent families in Israel. In recent years, the principal changes that have occurred in these families were an increase in Arab single-parent families, an increase in bachelor who head these families and at the same time a decrease of widowers that head single-parent families. Despite these changes, the rate of single-parent families in Israel is still the lowest among OECD countries.
Single-parent families in the first place belong to disadvantaged groups in Israeli society. In these families there is one earner as opposed to two in most families, when the only breadwinner is also the only caregiver of the children. In addition, 90% of single-parent families in Israel are headed by women who are already economically inferior as opposed to men. Single mothers are also less educated, earn less per hour and work more hours per week than married mothers. For the average single parent family in Israel, monthly expenses exceed the income. In other words, while the average monthly income of single-parent families is much lower than that of families with two parents, there is no big difference between the average monthly expenses of both families. This disparity highlights the need for the provision of financial assistance for single-parent families. In 2015, the poverty rate among single-parent families was 21.8% as opposed to 17.0% of all families with children. Single-parent families are highly dependent on the system of allowances, as transfer payments and taxes has extricated 43% of poor single-parent families by economic income (before transfer payments and taxes), from poverty by disposable income.
In 1992 the "single parent families" law was passed, which defined who is considered an independent parent and they were given widespread benefits and social assistance particularly easing the terms of eligibility for income support. Consequently, the supply of single parent mothers in the labor market has declined. This was reflected in a decline in the participation rate of those women in the labor market, a decrease in employment and an increase in the rate of women working part-time. While this policy has reduced the poverty rate of single-parent families, it has deepened their dependence on benefits. In the early 2000s the eligibility criteria of single-parent families for income support was tightened and the amount of the allowance was reduced. The maximum amount of the allowance currently stands at NIS 2,897 and NIS 3,373 for a parent of two children and more. The ceiling for wages for receiving an annuity is NIS 7,018 for a parent with one child and a parent NIS 7,811 for a parent of two or more children. Apart from this, single-parent families receive additional benefits such as an annual study grant, priority in admission to training programs, an increased labor grant, day care centers acceptance priority (and a discount), property tax reductions and more.
The financial assistance provided to single-parent families in Israel meet the standards of many OECD countries, but it is not enough. The relative difficult situation of single-parent families in Israel can is reflected in the high employment rate of single mothers to children under the age of 15, compared to OECD countries. While thinking about this figure, it should be remembered that Israel is the country with the highest poverty rate among OECD countries and one of the countries with the highest inequality in the OECD.
This document presents the main characteristics, demographic and economic data of single-parent families in Israel. We point out the data describing the difficult economic situation of these families, as opposed to families with two parents. Finally, we review the welfare policies implemented in Israel towards this population, in comparison with other OECD countries and offer a number of recommendations to improve policies.