‘Alternative’ Poverty Report Slams Gov’t on Policy, Statistics

YERUSHALAYIM -
A Yerushalayim chessed organization prepares chicken for distribution before Yom Kippur. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90
A Yerushalayim chessed organization prepares chickens for distribution before Yom Kippur. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An “Alternative Poverty Report” released Monday by the Latet organization claims that poverty in Israel is significantly worse than what the government claims. According to Latet, which runs the largest food distribution network for the poor in Israeli, some 2.4 million Israelis live in households under the poverty line – far more than the 1.7 million that appeared in the most recent government report on poverty.

The difference, according to the authors of the report, can be attributed to the way the different reports define poverty. The official government report examines income only; according to the methods used by the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi), which published the report, a household is considered poor if it earns less than half the average income of all families, currently NIS 9,230. The Latet report takes that number but also computes the effective buying power of those families in terms of what expenses for housing, education, health, security, nutrition, and the ability to handle cost of living increases.

In its most recent report, the NII said that there were some 1.7 million people in Israel who were poor, of them 776,500 children. According to the data, one out of every three Israeli children is poor. The Latet report says that the number of poor in Israel was 2.43 million – 29 percent of the population – of them 1,024,000 children. With that, the total number of poor, according to Latet, was smaller in 2016 than a year earlier, when 2.624 million Israelis were living in poverty.

But according to the study, the number of families forced to accept help from chessed groups was up 11 percent over the past year. The study showed that 68 percent of children who live in families that are clients of these groups eat mainly cheap carbohydrates – bread and margarine – for their sustenance. 36 percent of single parent families are poor. 75 percent of Israelis see poverty as the most important issue that needs to be dealt with in Israeli society, a 12 percent increase over last year.

Latet said that that the report indicated that “poverty rates in Israel are far worse than the NII statistics indicate. The government continues to refuse to take responsibility for this situation and to enact a true plan to reduce poverty.” Welfare Minister Chaim Katz, said the group, “conducts his office in a populistic manner and refuses to undertake several programs that he committed to, such as allocating NIS 100 million in the 2017-18 budget to establish a system for nutritional security for children” that would ensure a healthy diet even for the poor.

In response to the report, Katz’s office said that Latet was guilty of “coercion and cynicism in its management of the work it does with the poor. In general, we cast doubt on these figures, which were released mostly for public relations and to justify the inflated salaries of Latet’s directors.”