Over 430,000 Israeli families turned to the Welfare Ministry for help in 2009, according to data released by the ministry on Wednesday.
Overall, the ministry has seen a 45% increase in the number of people seeking aid over the past 10 years. When the sharp increase in Israel's population is taken into account, the statistics show a smaller rise in the percentage of needy families – 20.2% of the population received ministry assistance in 2009, compared to 17.8% in 1998.
Approximately 200,000 of those helped by the ministry were new immigrants.
The ministry found that families living in northern and southern Israel were more likely to need aid than were those living in the center of the country. Poverty was a major factor, with poor families being twice as likely to need help as were financially secure families. Country of origin played a part as well, with immigrants from Ethiopia most likely to need assistance while native Israelis who can trace their roots to Asia or Africa remain more likely to need aid than those of European descent.
Old age was the most commonly cited reason for people to seek aid, with 30.5% saying they sought help for an age-related issue, whether financial or health-related. Another 24.4% of those getting ministry care were children whose parents were unable to care for them properly.
Twenty-one percent were forced to seek help due to poor health, while 17.8% suffered primarily from low income or unemployment. Three percent were referred to the Ministry's professionals due to violence, and a similar number were treated for addiction or crime.