Nearly 2 million Israelis live in poverty

Israelis waiting for distribution of food packages for Passover in Lod (central Israel), Photo: IFCJ/Wikimedia Commons

According to a new report issued by the National Health Institute (NHI), more than 1.8 million people were living below the poverty line in Israel last year.

The Times of Israel reported that Jerusalem was recorded as the poorest region in the country, with 55 percent of children living in poverty. Israel has a population of around 8 million.

The NHI report affirmed that improvements had been made, including a 3.8 percent rise in overall standard of living. According to Israel’s welfare agency these improvements were due to increases in the minimum wage and child and elderly welfare allowances. There was also an increase in the employment rate among the poorer sections of Israeli society.

Nevertheless, the welfare agency stipulated that further increases in salaries were necessary. Indeed, according to the report, Israel remains at the top of the poverty scale among OECD countries.

The NHI report stated that although there were now fewer Arab families living in poverty (a drop to 49.4 percent from 53.5 percent in 2015), 58 percent of the Bedouin population of 17,000 families, and 70 percent of its children, remain impoverished.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews made up 15 percent  of the poor families in Israel.

Continuing a trend, the immigrant population showed a reduction in the number those living under the poverty line from the 17.7 percent in 2015 to 17 percent in 2016. However, there remained severe poverty in this community.

According to the Times of Israel, being poor meant taking home “NIS 3,260 ($920) or less; for a couple, earning less than NIS 5,216 ($1,480); and for a family of five, less than NIS 10,000 ($2,800).”

Knesset Member Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List stated he would work toward a further increase in the minimum wage.

“The bleak figures in the poverty report among working families show that the minimum wage is still not sufficiently high and must be raised further,” he told reporters.