State blamed as shocking new report highlights deep poverty across Israel

1,412,000 adults and 1,024,000 children live under the poverty line, with 1 in 3 poor children skipping meals.

December 12, 2016 10:48
4 minute read.
Poverty in Israel

A homeless person begs for change in Israel. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

There are 2,436,000 poor people living in the country, accounting for 29.05% of the population, according to the 2016 Alternative Poverty Report the humanitarian aid NGO Latet published on Monday.

A total of 1,412,000 adults and 1,024,000 children live under the poverty line, according to the report.

Latet has issued the Alternative Poverty Report annually for more than a decade, and says it presents a more insightful picture than the National Insurance Institute’s annual survey, as it takes a closer look at the daily struggles of the poor.

The NII’s report measures poverty based on a person’s income alone and presents a more level of poverty in Israel: an estimated 1,709,300 people, some 22% of the population, including 444,900 families and 776,500 children in 2015.

This year’s NII report, which is set to be released later this month, is also expected to show significantly lower levels of poverty in the country in 2016 than the alternative report.

In contrast, the Latet document uses the degree of a person’s shortages in five categories – each reflecting essentials needed to live in dignity – to determine poverty: housing, education, health, food security and the ability to meet the cost of living.

“The multi-dimensional poverty index shows, for the third consecutive year, that poverty rates in Israel are far higher than those published using the method of the National Insurance Institute, which draws a virtual ‘poverty line’ relying only on the parameter of income,” Latet’s chairman Gilles Darmon and CEO Eran Weintraub said ahead of the release of the report.

This year’s alternative report does, however, show a reduction in the overall number of people living in poverty, though it remains to be seen in the coming years if this is a sustained trend. The report attributes the decrease in poverty numbers to the implementation of some of the recommendations the Committee to Fight Poverty, headed by MK Eli Alalouf, issued in 2014.

Still, some of the report’s most disturbing findings concerned children in needy families.

One out of every three children in Israel is poor, the 2016 report says.

Furthermore, 34.4% of the poor children were forced to skip a meal or eat very little due to their family’s financial hardships, while 20% of them were sent to school without a sandwich or other food.

In addition, 11.1% did not eat for an entire day because their parents were unable to provide food, and 43.8% of those said this was an ongoing occurrence. Also, 60.9% of impoverished parents were forced to do without medicine or medical treatment for their children at some point in the last year.

Similarly disturbing statistics were reported regarding the elderly.

Nearly half of impoverished elderly, some 41%, said old age allotments are not enough to live in dignity and buy basic necessities.

The report found 49.7% of needy elderly do not eat enough food due to financial hardship, while 74% suffer from loneliness and 58.3% are in poor health due to their financial situation.

More than half of those living in poverty (63.3%) work or are too young to work, the Alternative Poverty Report further indicates.

However, of those who do work, a majority, 67.2%, did not receive full social benefits and rights in their place of work.

The findings also indicated 36.7% of those receiving income supplements were unemployed. Among these, 57.4% have been unemployed for more than three years.

The findings further indicated that 65.7% of those receiving benefits are in debt, nearly double the rate of the general population at 35.1%; while 92.4% of those receiving benefits were unable to save for the future.

The report also addressed the increased cost of living and found 50.6% of the underprivileged population said they came from an “average” socioeconomic background and fell into poverty.

Some 71.9% of the needy were forced to forgo medicine during the past year because they were unable to afford it. Furthermore, 73.9% of the poor suffer from a lack of food, while 51.4% lack food on a regular basis. As such, 8% of the needy population was forced to search for food in the garbage or to beg for food, and 56.8% receive assistance from NGOs on a regular basis.

The report also discussed the general public’s view of the importance of addressing poverty, saying that 74.8% of Israelis believe poverty is either the first or second most urgent and important national issue, ahead of security (51.7%) and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (24.6%).

“Unfortunately, the government still refuses to take responsibility and is afraid to adopt the recommendations of the Committee to Fight Poverty as an action plan and to set goals to reduce poverty,” said Darmon and Weintraub. The two levied strong criticism against the welfare minister, who they said was “forceful” and “acted out of populist considerations,” saying he did not stand by his promises to allocate NIS 100 million in the 2017-18 state budget toward a national plan for food security.

“Nevertheless, we are determined to continue to fight until we can make the government fulfill its role, take responsibility and implement policies to remove barriers to extract people from poverty as well as reduce the extent of the destructive and dangerous phenomenon in Israeli society,” they said.

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