Israel's Minister of Welfare Meir Cohen announced on Monday that the government is set to allocate 1. 7 billion shekels (550 million U.S. dollars) for an anti-poverty plan, aiming at halving the nation's high poverty rates within a decade.
"Dealing with poverty is the government's responsibility," Cohen told a press conference in his office in Jerusalem. "It's an historic moment now."
The new plan will focus on the elders and children, the two groups in which poverty rates are the highest.
Under the plan, grants and payments will be provided to boost the income of 190,000 elders' supplement pensions and the income of single-parent families who, despite being employed, are still below the poverty line.
Additional 430 million shekels will be allocated for the construction of day care centers for toddlers and the aged, vocational training for poor workers, increasing the budget for public housing apartments, and drugs funding for poor elderly Holocaust survivors.
The move follows recent recommendations by the Committee to Fight Poverty, which was established by the government a year ago to draft a plan to cut the nation's poverty rates, Cohen said.
According to the 2013 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel holds the highest poverty rates among developed countries. About 20.9 percent of the population are living in poverty, the report showed.
Eli Elaluf, chairman of the committee, said the goal of the plan is to bring down Israel's poverty rate to the OECD average of 11 percent within ten years.
The move comes less than a week after the Ministry of Finance presented the government with the 2015 austerity budget, which includes some seven billion shekels (1.9 billion dollars) cuts and austerity measures, mainly in fields of education, health and welfare.