Poverty rates and inequality fell by 0.5% in 2016 compared to 2015, but Israel is still one of the poorest countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), according to the National Insurance Institute’s annual poverty report published today, Wednesday, 18 Kislev.
The poverty level dropped from 19.1% to 18.6%, but the significant figure is the large number of those still living below the poverty line in Israel: 1,809,200 persons, of which 842,300 are children.
The report points to several positive trends, including a decline in the rate of poverty and the severity of poverty, as well as an increase in the standard of living and more, but the bottom line remains bleak: Welfare Minister Chaim Katz referred to the report, blaming the Finance Ministry, stating among other things, “If we do not act now to strengthen the resilience of the senior citizen and to raise disability allowances in an egalitarian way, we will continue to lag behind in poverty and gaps in Israeli society. Correcting this in the future will be far costlier.”
The poverty rate of children living in poverty rose by 1.2%, and poverty among the chareidim rose from 44.6% to 45.1%, and for the first time in four years the Bedouin society was surveyed with the assistance of the Central Bureau of Statistics. People in this society live below the poverty line.
Another worrying statistic that emerges from the report is an increase in the incidence of poverty among working families, meaning that one or more of the household members are employed or self-employed, and 58% of all poor families in Israel in 2016 are working families – an increase of 55.6%. This means that most of the poor in Israel hold a job and try to earn a decent salary, but still do not meet the bar. This is news that should be of great concern to policymakers.
The incidence of poverty among single-parent families rose sharply, in this case, from 21.7% in 2015 to 26.1% last year. The overall share of the poor population increased by about 33%. The report explains that single-parent families “find it difficult to avoid or leave poverty in light of the significant wage gaps between women and men, part-time work, mostly involuntary, low subsistence allowances and low work grants – even if they are higher than other recipients.” According to gender breakdown, the incidence of poverty among men declined by more than half the percentage between 2015 and last year, while the incidence of women increased slightly.
However, there are several positive aspects of the report, such as the poverty rate among Arab families, which dropped from 53.3% in 2015 to 49.4% in 2016. The number of poor old citizens declined by 2016, compared to 171,500 in the previous year. The poverty rate of families headed by veteran citizen dropped from 23.5% in 2015 to 21.6% in 2016. Among the elderly, the percentage of poor persons declined from 18.2% to 16.9%, the lowest rate in five years, in the light of the aging of the general population.
It also shows that the standard of living in Israel in terms of disposable income increased in 2016 by 3.8%, and accordingly the poverty line for individuals rose from NIS 3,158 to NIS 3,260 a month. The poverty line for the couple stands at NIS 5,216 compared with NIS 5,053 in 2015. The inequality in disposable income (the Gini index) fell by 1.8%, following a continuous decline in recent years – according to the authors of the report, this is a finding that indicates a narrowing of gaps in Israeli society.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)