Some 1.8 million citizens of Israel, including 842,300 children, were living in poverty in 2016, according to new figures released by the National Insurance Institute this week. The poorest region in the country continued to be Jerusalem, where some 55% of children live below the poverty line (down from 58% in 2015), followed by northern and southern Israel. The annual report underlined improvements in reducing poverty and inequality compared to previous years, “though Israel remained in a worrisome position by Western standards,” it said.
Being poor in the State of Israel in 2016, for an individual, meant taking home a net monthly paycheck of 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). The report for the first time in four years obtained accurate figures on poverty among Israel’s Arab-Bedouin population, noting that 58% of the population of 17,000 families, and 70% of its children, live below the poverty line.
The report saw fewer impoverished Arab families compared to the previous year (with a drop from 53.5% to 49.4%), though the ultra-Orthodox still represented 15% of poor families in the country, three times above their share of the Israeli families in the general population.
Though it touted the rise in minimum wage, the report stressed that a single mother with one child working full-time at minimum wage and receiving child allowances would still be poor, though her condition is much improved when compared to previous years. Following the report’s release, Hadash lawmakers accused the neo-liberal government of failing to reduce the income gap.
“The far-right coalition dedicates hundreds of hours to corrupt bills for its own survival, while nearly two million people are living in dire poverty,” said Joint List MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) in response to the report, and vowed to seek another increase to the minimum wage, which rose in December to NIS 5,300. “The bleak figures in the poverty report regarding working families show that the minimum wage is still not sufficiently high and must be raised yet again,” said Khenin.