Israel’s poverty rate has increased while the standard of living has dipped significantly throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis and the consequent three national closures, a report published on Thursday by the National Insurance Institute said.
The report specifies that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel in March 2020, the number of citizens living below the poverty line had increased by 7%, accompanied by a significant 4.4% decrease in the nation's standard of living.
The current drop in living standards in Israel is the most significant the country had endured since the economic crisis of 2008 and is 23% worse.
Additionally, income inequality in Israel in 2020 had also increased by 7.8% compared to 2019. Many of those who lost their livelihood during the crisis were workers making minimum wage, causing the growing disparity and further deepening inequality in Israel, which was already among the highest among OECD countries in 2018.
The report further states that the number of people living under the poverty line dropped slightly to 1,980,309, compared to more than 2 million in 2019. These figures are not necessarily encouraging since the poverty line is defined by the average standard of living, which has dropped considerably in the past year.
Among Israel's Jewish population below, 1,277,477 people are living under the poverty line, 560,882 of which are children. Ultra-Orthodox Jews living under the poverty line number 500,396 people, 296,167 of which are children.
There are 702,832 Arab citizens living below the poverty line, 346,397 of which are children.
The report shows that the average monthly income of families in 2020 decreased by 11% to NIS 13,627, compared to NIS 15,274 in 2019.
Eli Cohen, CEO of Pitchon Lev - a non-profit organization aiding families and youths living below the poverty line - said
"For years we have been arguing that poverty is the scourge [of Israel], a state of affairs that is expanding to new audiences,” Cohen said.
“According to the report - a 23% drop in living standards means that the lower part of the middle class has fallen into poverty. The only thing that curbs this catastrophe is government payments. Government payments will stop in the near future while the decline in living standards will remain,” added Cohen. “Behind every number, figure and statistic in this report is a person, family and a business that collapsed… Israel must stop contemplating data and start acting."
President of the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses (LAHAV) Adv. Roi Cohen lambasted the government for what he deemed its bungled handling of the economic criis.
“The writing was on the wall. The report on poverty in Israel is a stain on the record of a government that was caught with its pants down during the coronavirus crisis when it comes to a social safety net for the self-employed," Cohen said. "It is time for the government to take responsibility and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly apologize to the tens of thousands of families that he and his government have pushed below the poverty line.”