Israel’s annual poverty report released Wednesday by the National Insurance Institute shows that 776,500 Israeli children were living in poverty in 2014, an across the board increase from 2013.
The number of Israeli families below the poverty line rose from 18.6 percent to 18.8 percent, with a total of 1,709,300 families living under the poverty line. This is equal to one in five Israeli citizens, and one in three children is living in poverty – one of the highest rates in the developed world. According to the report, individuals who earn less than NIS 3,077 ($797) a month and families of five with a monthly income of less than NIS 9,230 ($2,390) are considered poor.
Israel ranks second to last for poverty levels when compared with other OECD countries, with Mexico at the bottom. In terms of child poverty, Israel is second only to Turkey.
Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich responded to the report with marked skepticism. “These findings are exaggerated, I have five kids and I don’t think two of them are poor,” Smotrich said in an interview with Israeli website Arutz 7. “Today’s definition of the poverty line doesn’t reflect reality, in which living is possible.”
“There is nobody here who starves to death in the street,” he continued. “There is no doubt that a poor person today is much less poor than 20 years ago. The rich are richer, but the poor are also richer.”
The Arab and Ultra-Orthodox sectors of the population still maintain the highest poverty levels at nearly 50%. According to the report, poverty among Arab families rose from 51.7% in 2013 to 52.6% in 2014. Poverty levels within the Ultra-Orthodox community rose to 54.3% in 2014. Two thirds of all children in this sector of the population live in poverty.
MK Smotrich claimed that data about the Israeli Arab population “should be taken with a grain of salt” since it is unclear how much of their income is properly reported.
Meanwhile, poverty among the elderly also rose from 22.1% to 23.1% in 2014.