The Social Security Institute's poverty report shows what we in Jaffa have been feeling for a long time: many are poor and their poverty is deepening.
In fact, today 1,651,300 people in Israel (=25%) are living below the poverty line, and almost 47% of the poor are working poor. That is, families where at least one of the partners is employed, but their salary is so low, they are poor.
Almost 29% of the poor are elderly people, depending on their shamefully low state pensions.
Out of the working population almost 13% are poor.
The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, edged up 0.6 percent from 2007 to 2008.
The minimum wage is low, but many working people earn much less than the minimum wage. Many of them are afraid to complain, as they are worried they will be fired. Others are employed through contractors who fired them every few months, so they will not have to pay them social rights, which they get after 9 months employment.
But what do these numbers really mean?
Prices have gone up hysterically. Discounts for the poor have been cancelled and special support programs are being cut due to budget limitations. As a result of the global slow down, many NGO's are closing down due to less donations.
The ridiculous privitization that has been taking place over the last few years caused much work to be transferred from the state to these NGO's, on the flimsy assumption they would do a better and more efficient job. And cheaper for the state in any case.
Admittedle, some NGO's have been doing wonderful work, on a high professional level.
However, now one NGO after the other closes down or cuts programs. The state is no longer responsible for the privatised services and the poor and needy simply do not get what they are entitled to, as the service no longer exists...
So not only are there more poor, but they are poorer and there are less and less services available to them.
Last week i volunteered for a food hand out program for the very needy. I was shocked to find out the closed boxes contained food stuff that was way past the "sell by" date, in some cases almost two years.
The freshest item, a small box of teabags, was about 1 month past its sell by date. Other products were label-less and one could only guess as to their contents and sell by date.
But people took them never the less. "What can i do?", asked Ibtisal. "It's the only food i will have in my home until the 14th, when my pension comes in." "My daughter got divorced and she returned to live with me with her 3 children. I have many mouths to feed."
Frankly, i do NOT believe in food hand out programs. I think providing higher wages, social security payments as well as stringent control of labour laws are much better tools in the fight for a just allocation of resources and against poverty. More over, when companies donate the stuuf they were not able to sell and can no longer put in the market because it's past the sell by date, they can deduct this as a donation from their taxes, do some PR and feel publicly good about themselves.
As to me, it makes me very angry. Poverty is a social problem that can be solved. It does NOT fall from the sky. It really is a crime carried out by the very strong, the elite, against the weaker people in society. Poverty is preventable.
Not doing anything about it is criminal.