01/23/2021, 08.00
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Two million Israelis live below the poverty line because of COVID-19

The National Insurance Institute reports that 23 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, almost 50 per cent in the case of Israel’s Arab population. The pandemic has particularly hit the middle classes and the self-employed. The poor were able to rely on government subsidies. Unemployment is a major concern.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit many Israelis in their pocketbooks, so much so that today – a year after the start of the global health emergency – almost two million (out of 9 million) live below the official poverty line, this according to a report by the National Insurance Institute.

Overall, 23 per cent of the population are poor, and one third finds it hard to cope with the difficulties of daily life. The poverty rate among Israel's Arab Israelis is nearly 50 per cent, which is double the rate among Jewish Israelis.

The poverty line in Israel is based on the 2018 limit of 3,593 shekels per person and 5,750 shekels per couple.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected only the poor. The poverty rate rose especially among the middle classes and the self-employed.

Overall, the standard of living as measured by disposable income fell by 4.4 per cent in 2020.In previous years, the standard of living by this measure rose by 3-4 per cent. The last time a decline of this order was recorded was in 2001.

The drop in the standard of living also lowered the poverty line. The Gini inequality index was almost unchanged from 2019, after a rise of 0.5 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

However, government measures have reduced the impact of COVID-19. Thus, given the strength of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the rise in poverty is moderate.

In its report’s conclusions, the National Insurance Institute noted that the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will continue beyond 2020.

Containing the social and economic damage will depend on the readiness of policymakers to provide a substantial social safety net until the crisis is over.

Action is also needed to deal with record coronavirus-related unemployment, which is expected to exceed one million by the end of February with the rate reaching 8.6 per cent this year. And if the health crisis intensifies, unemployment could rise to 11.6 per cent.

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