A charity is claiming that there are almost one million people more living below the poverty line in Israel than cited in an official study released this week.
According to a National Insurance Institute review of poverty in Israel during 2014 published Wednesday, 1.7 million people in Israel lives below the poverty line, including 776,000 — close to one in three — children.
But the Latet umbrella organization, which works with NGOs to aid the poor in Israel, says that figure is over 2.6 million people, Israel Radio reported. Israel’s total population is about 8.4 million.
The newly published NII report shows that Israel’s economy loses some NIS 50 billion ($13 billion) per year, mainly due to the loss of earning capacity as well as from direct and indirect expenses incurred from poverty.
According to Latet, an investment of NIS 76 billion ($19.7 billion) over 10 years would bring the poverty rate in Israel to the levels of other OECD nations.
The NII report shows the Jewish state to be one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the developed world. The results put Israel’s poverty levels as the second highest among OECD countries, with only Mexico’s being worse. Israel was also second-highest for the rate of poverty among children, behind Turkey.
The data, presented Wednesday to Welfare Minister Haim Katz by Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the NII director, showed that there had only been a small increase in the proportion of the population living below the poverty line, compared to the 2014 study.
Poor people made up 21.8% of the population in 2013 and 22% in 2014, while poor families went from 18.6% of the total in 2013 to 18.8% in 2014.
Among families with children, 23.3% were considered poor in 2014 compared to 23% in 2013. The number of children living in poverty increased from 30.8% to 31% during the same period.
NII guidelines define poverty as any person whose income is less than NIS 3,077 ($792) a month or NIS 4,923 ($1268) for a couple.
Katz defended government policy in dealing with poverty and vowed to make further progress by ensuring that those who are employed can earn a living wage.
“In the current budget, we increased the allowances for senior citizens who receive income support and created a tool for reducing inter-generational poverty in the form of a grant for each child — steps that will reduce poverty,” he said.
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