Almost two million Israeli citizens live below the official poverty line, the National Insurance Institute reported on Thursday. This represents 23 per cent of the total population. Around one-third of all Israel children are included in that figure.
According to the institute, the poverty rate among Israel’s Arab citizens is nearly 50 per cent, which is double the rate among Jewish citizens. Although the statistics cover last year, the poverty line in Israel is based on the 2018 limit of 3,593 shekels per person and 5,750 shekels per couple.
The social welfare authorities pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic has not only affected those in the lower socio-economic levels.
Poverty rates in Israel have not improved since it joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, despite an increase in tax rates, which are among the highest in the world.
Unemployment, meanwhile, continues to be at a record level since the start of the third pandemic lockdown on 27 December. The number of unemployed people due to the coronavirus is expected to exceed one million by the end of February.
The Israeli Finance Ministry expects the unemployment crisis to continue throughout the year, even if the virus vaccination campaign is successful and restrictions are removed in the near future.
It suggested that in the most optimistic scenario where restrictions are lifted, normal life resumes and economic facilities are fully opened, the unemployment rate will remain high, reaching 8.6 per cent this year. If, however, the health crisis intensifies, the ministry expects the unemployment rate to rise to 11.6 per cent.