Number of Welfare Recipients Dropping in Israel Except in South

The number of people with autism registered with the Social Affairs Ministry has grown four-fold in the past decade.

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A homeless person lays on a dirty stone step in Israel.
Homeless person in Israel.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Social Affairs Ministry’s report for 2015 shows that the overall number of welfare recipients is dropping, except in the southern part of the country, where numbers are on the rise. The report notes that over the last decade the number of households requiring assistance has declined, currently standing at 20.5 percent. In the southern district there was a 4 percent rise in this figure between 2009 and 2015.

In 2015, one out of every five households in Israel was part of the welfare system. There were regional differences, with 21.5 percent of households in the Beersheba district and 19.1 percent in Haifa and the north requiring assistance, compared to 15.3 percent in the Jerusalem area and 12.7 percent of all households in central Israel.

According to Yekutiel Tzeva, head of the ministry’s research department, “there’s a direct link between socio-economic status and people’s need to receive assistance from welfare services. The poorer people are, the less capable they are of dealing with family problems, thus turning to us for help. In the south we see increasing numbers of people requiring our services.”

Ran Melamed, the deputy director of Yedid, a community empowerment non-profit group, confirms this trend. “We see this in places like Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Rahat and even Ashdod. There was an 18 percent increase in cases over the last year, with 14 percent more appeals to welfare services than in the north. One reason for this is that there are more Bedouin and Jews from Ethiopia in the south. There are also more development towns there. These have grown in recent years but with no corresponding growth in employment opportunities.”

According to the report, 50 percent of citizens over 75 years of age and almost a quarter of youths aged 12-17 were registered with social services. The most common reason for turning to these services, says the report, are cases of children and youth at risk and difficulties in parental functioning, accounting for 40 percent of all cases.

The second most common reason is poverty and difficulties in making ends meet (30 percent). One quarter of the cases in which people turn to welfare services relate to old age and disabilities, including medical problems. Many appeals included more than one reason.

The latest report took account of the results of a Central Bureau of Statistics survey on household expenses, as well as figures gathered by the ministry. The data shows that the rate of unemployment among those turning to welfare services is 6.1 percent, double the 3.9 percent in the general population. Accordingly, 47.3 percent of people seeking help are part of the workforce, compared to 66 percent of the general population who are working.

The sharpest rise was in the number of people with autism registered with the Social Affairs Ministry. This number has grown 4-fold over the last decade, standing at 12,530 in 2015. The budget for treating this population has also grown, with more housing units and community facilities, such as rehabilitation and day use centers, more provision of short vacations, day camps and programs for incorporating young people with autism into the workforce or into national or military service.