The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened poverty in Israel, with the almost 700,000 households (24.1%) who suffered economic hardship in January to March 2020 jumping to 1,121,000 households (38.6%) at the height of the crisis between July and September 2021.
The figure declined a bit to 932,000 households (31.6%) between May and July 2021, according to “Alternative Poverty Report” just issued by Latet, the non-profit organization that provides food and other services to Israeli poor, including very-elderly Holocaust survivors.
The proportion of households that are close to the poverty line (but did not fall below it also rose from 14% before the crisis to 23.6% today. Fully 18.1% of the population declared that the food they bought was not enough for them, and they did not have enough money to buy more or have adequate heating in winter.
Latet (“To Give” in Hebrew) was established to reduce poverty, for a better and just society by providing help to needy populations, mobilizing Israeli society towards mutual responsibility and leading change in national priorities. It is the largest non-governmental organization fighting poverty and food insecurity in Israel and is an umbrella organization for 180 local associations in the country. It operates the leading national food bank and provides monthly assistance to 60,000 families and 1,000 Holocaust survivors—thus it is well attuned to the needs of these populations.
Latet publishes its annual Alternative Poverty Report every year and presented the latest one in the Knesset on Tuesday, saying it is designed to better and more fully reflect the scale of poverty in Israel than the state’s National Insurance Institute (NII), whose poverty data was last published in 2020 regarding the 2019 data and is not expected to be published this year.
Latet maintains that one of the methodological problems in the NII report is that it is based on how far Israeli household income is from the median income – which is half above it and half below it. But during the COVID-19 crisis, the median income of the entire the State of Israel fell, so households that were considered poor in the past are no longer considered as such according to the NII’s methodology.
According to the Latet survey, this year, more than 13% reduced the size of the meals they eat on a daily basis. Almost nine percent said their bank accounts were blocked because they went into a serious overdraft. A quarter said they were unable to carry out significant and urgent repairs to their apartments due to their financial situation.
Among the poor surveyed by Latet, 51% with young children said they couldn’t afford to send their child to day care from birth to age three. More than 44% said pessimistically that there was no chance at all or that there is only a low chance for them to get out of their situation; and almost two in five said they had been infected with COVID-19 compared to just 12% of the general population. Therefore, the pandemic has clearly pushed many Israelis closer to the poverty line.