Elderly, child poverty increased in 2018, national report finds

NGOs combating poverty express concern with increasing poverty for elderly, although rate of overall poverty remained the same in 2018 over 2017 figures.

one of the Pitchon Lev's, a poverty assistance organization, help centers. (photo credit: YAKI ZIMERMAN)
one of the Pitchon Lev's, a poverty assistance organization, help centers.
(photo credit: YAKI ZIMERMAN)
Poverty among the elderly in Israel rose significantly in 2018, the National Insurance Institute (NII) reported on Tuesday, while child poverty increased marginally and the overall rate of poverty remained the same compared with 2017 figures.
According to the NII’s annual report, poverty among Israel’s elderly population went from 17.2% in 2017 to 18.8% in 2018, an increase of more than nine percent.
Child poverty rose 0.4%, while the overall rate of poverty remained the same at 21.2%.
Family poverty was down marginally, with the percentage of families in Israel under the poverty line declining from 18.4% in 2017 to 18% in 2018.
A minor improvement was also registered in the poverty rate among “working families,” which declined from 12.6% in 2017 to 12.3% in 2018.
The NII attributed the increase in elderly poverty to an increase in quality of life for the general population, which raised the poverty line by more than four percent, with only a 0.3% increase in NII stipends for the poor.
A growing economy and growth in employment and wages, and an increase in the minimum wage, helped improve quality of life, it said.
The NII said it expected poverty trends to be improved in 2019 due to steps taken by the government in recent years, including reforms to income support for the elderly.
Poverty rates among two sectors in particular, the ultra-Orthodox and Arab-Israelis, remain extremely high, it said.
More than half of the haredi population, some 52%, was considered poor in 2018, along with 47% of the Arab population, including those in east Jerusalem, which has much higher incidence of poverty than the general Israeli population.
The dramatically-higher rate of poverty among these two sectors was in large part attributed to the low rate of employment among haredi men and Arab women.
In the Arab sector, excluding residents of east Jerusalem, poverty among families increased from 42.6% in 2017 to 44.2% in 2018, although there was a massive decrease in poverty among east Jerusalem residents of more than 20%.
While the number of poor haredi families declined marginally, the number of individuals in the haredi community who are considered poor rose from just under 49% to nearly 52%, an increase of three percent.
The chairman of the Knesset lobby for pensioners, MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor-Gesher), accused the government of having “abandoned the elderly, and it alone is responsible for the many elderly who are drowning under the poverty line.”
MK Meirav Cohen (Blue and White) said general improvements in quality of life in Israel had “skipped over the elderly community,” adding that the new figures should serve as “a warning light” for the country.
Council for the Welfare of Children Director Vered Vindman said the increase in child poverty “demonstrates the failure of social-economic policies and shows the silent invisibility of entire groups of children to the eyes of those who determine policy.”
The increases were “the result of the cessation of government over the last year, which is deepening gaps” in society, she said.
Leket Israel CEO Gidi Kroch said Israel was facing a “widespread poverty crisis,” adding that excess food rescue and collection, which Leket conducts, should be a large component of efforts to tackle the problem.