Israel poverty report: Less poverty but more poor people

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Latet: One of every three children and one of every four Israelis is poor.

77.4% of the families receiving state support have at least one breadwinner, and 19.7% have two or more breadwinners, according to the alternative poverty report published today by the Latet (To Give) organization. The report indicates that like last year, one of every three children and one of every four Israelis is poor. At the same time, it is important to note that in contrast to the definition of poverty in the official poverty report by the National Insurance Institute, Latet's definitions of poverty are multi-dimensional. Latet's index estimates the degree of want in a family in five aspects reflecting needs essential for dignified living in Israel: housing, education, health, nutritional security, and ability to meet the cost of living. A family reporting a shortage in at least three of the five indices is classified as poor. Latet's unique model counts 500,000 more poor people in Israel than the National Insurance Institute, bringing the total to 2.5 million. Latet's model puts the number of poor families in Israel at 533,000. According to in-depth surveys conducted by Latet, 34.1% of the public regards poverty and social gaps as the most urgent problem requiring attention from the government, while state security was in second place with 33.3%. Asked what two issues are most urgent, 66% percent included poverty and social gaps as either most urgent or second most urgent, compared with 54.1% for state security.

A positive aspect of the report was a rise in the average monthly income of those receiving state assistance from NIS 3,348 in 2017 to NIS 4,176 in 2018, an increase of nearly 25%. Latet attributes a large part of this increase to the increase in the minimum wage, which currently stands at NIS 5,300. The report also states that the feeling of employment security improved this year, with 19.9% of those receiving state assistance reporting that they were likely or very likely to lose their current jobs, far less than the 33.1% who reported the same thing last year.

It appears, however, that the public is not giving the government credit for these results. 75.6% of the public believes that the government bears more responsible, a larger proportion than for any other party, but only 24.4% believes that the government is actually dealing with the problem. 36.9% of the public believes that the government is refraining from setting targets for reducing poverty because the long-term results are of no interest to politicians. 72% of the public believes that dealing with poverty is either a low priority on or totally absent from the national agenda.

Latet founder and chairperson Gilles Darman and executive director Eran Weintrob say, "When there are more than 500,000 poor families and more than one million poor children, we can't simply get used to this situation and accept it. The Israeli government may have gotten used to a lot of poor people, but poor children will never get used to it, and with the help of a suitable policy, they can be given hope of a better future." Darmon and Weintrob added, "Despite the partial measures taken by the government through partial implementation of the Alalouf report in housing, or by raising the minimum wage, no real change in the poverty rate trend is visible; poverty rates remain high and stable. Israel is entering an election year, and the general public has another opportunity to decide whether these will again be elections on military issues, or whether this time, the social gaps and economic issues will be a significant element in decision-making, thereby forcing political parties from all parts of the political spectrum to commit to a national plan for reducing poverty."

The alternative poverty report also reported other findings. 94% of the senior citizens receiving state support said that their old-age allowances either did not enable them to fulfill their basic living needs in dignity, or did so only partially, about the same proportion as last year (92.2%). 66.7% of the senior citizens receiving state support said that they were unable to properly maintain their health because of their economic situation, and 89.8% percent were unable to make payments for nursing, compared with 85.7% in 2017. 70.9% of those receiving state assistance reported being swamped with debt, compared with 77.4% last and 34.1% of the general population in 2017. 48.9% of those receiving assistance reported having a bank account blocked or attached for debt, a bailiff's action, or lawsuits, compared with 8.4% of the general population. 50.7% of those receiving state aid reported lacking a properly working air-conditioner or heating at home, or being unable to afford to operate it. 11.5% of those receiving assistance had attempted to commit suicide, or had planned to do so in the past year, because of economic distress, down from 18% in 2015.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 13, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Homeless Photo: Shutterstock
Homeless Photo: Shutterstock
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