Poverty Report: Over One Million Poor Children in Israel

View of the National Insurance Institute in Yerushalayim. (Meital Cohen/FLASH90)

The Labor and Welfare Committee, chaired by MK Efrat Rayten Marom (Labor), convened on Tuesday to discuss measures for dealing with food insecurity. The meeting was held as part of a series of special debates held in the Knesset on the occasion of the Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Food Insecurity, at the initiative of Marom.

In the meeting, statistics were presented to the committee from the Alternative Poverty Report issued by the Latet organization. Committee Chair MK Marom said that the statistics in the report “reflect a sad and worrying picture that should make us all lose sleep. There was an ongoing sin of disregard here for years. We did not always deal our bread to the hungry and did not always bring the poor into our house; many times, we preferred to ignore them. Only cooperation by all ministries can lead to an understanding of the depth of the problem and [help us] see the human beings, the citizens for whom we work and to whom we are committed. It is these people that we always need to have in mind, to bring about the change that the country needs, today perhaps more than ever.”

Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) proposed to examine the numbers from the National Insurance Institute’s report that is due to be issued soon. He said that over the past year old age allowances had been increased by 70%, clubs were opened for senior citizens in which hot lunches are served, significant reforms were made in the area of care for people with disabilities, and the required level of disability [for benefits] was lowered from 60% to 40%, and more.

Transport Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor): “The report shows the severe economic harm caused by the coronavirus. It is an existential danger for the State of Israel when there is such a large group of people in distress; it’s not charity, it is responsibility. As the Government imposes restrictions to protect health, it has to compensate those who are harmed by them.”

The Alternative Poverty Report issued by the Latet organization shows that while before the outbreak of the coronavirus, 24.1% of households in Israel, which are 699,000 households, were in a state of economic distress, today 31.6% of households in Israel, or 932,000 households, are in such a state of distress. Latet Executive Director Eran Weintraub said that 633,000 families in Israel, representing 21.8% of all families, live in a state of food insecurity. Of these, 292,000 families live in a state of severe food insecurity. A total of 774,000 children, or 31% of the children in Israel, face conditions of food insecurity. It was stated that NIS 3,186 is the minimum monthly amount needed for a five-person family to purchase healthy food.

National Insurance Institute (NII) Director General Meir Shpigler said that the NII collected updated information from all over Israel and in all municipalities, and issued its annual report based on scientific and international indicators. In addition, the report assigned economic value to dignified subsistence, and “no senior citizen in the State of Israel will be under the poverty line in the coming year.” Director General Shpigler said that the bottom two deciles had improved their situation in the past year due to all the transfer payments made during the coronavirus period. In addition, the reforms made with regard to people with disabilities, which were coordinated with the organizations for people with disabilities and their representatives, improved their situation significantly.