Young Children from the Foreign Worker Community in Tel Aviv-Yafo: Living Conditions, Needs, and Directions for Action

During the past decade, many foreign workers have come to Israel. Some have lived in Israel for many years and established families with children. It is estimated that most of the families with children live in Tel Aviv-Yafo. As required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the State of Israel has made partial arrangements to provide these children with health and education services. However, evidence suggests that many of them do not benefit from the conditions necessary for proper development, both because the arrangements are partial, and because the children’s parents do not use the services available, for various reasons. Given this evidence, the Social Services Administration of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, in cooperation with JDC-Israel, initiated a study whose goals were to ascertain the living conditions, needs, and patterns of service use of children of foreign workers newborn to age five in Tel Aviv-Yafo. This was accomplished through interviews with 166 mothers from Africa, South America, and the Philippines.

Most of the families work and function well, and many of them use municipal health and social services. In a number of areas, the situation of children of foreign workers is more difficult than that of the total population of children ages three-five in Israel. However, there are several disadvantaged populations in Israel who live in conditions similar to or worse than those of the children of foreign workers. Nevertheless, the study generated some worrisome findings:

  • About one-quarter of the families are single-parent families.
  • A large proportion (40%) of the children do not have health insurance.
  • Morbidity (especially illnesses of the respiratory system and digestive tract) is more prevalent among these children than among their Israeli peers.
  • A significant percentage of the children up to age three exhibit late development of language skills (20%) and gross motor skills (30%).
  • A greater extent of behaviors indicative of emotional and social problems was reported among children over age three than among their Israeli peers.
  • The children (especially those up to age three) spend many hours in frameworks that do not contribute to their development and whose physical conditions are inappropriate.
  • Compared to Israeli parents, foreign worker parents do not often engage their children in enrichment and educational activities (such as reading and playing games); they make limited use of enrichment and recreation services such as libraries and community centers.

The findings have made it possible to identify directions for action that social services could take to provide the children of foreign workers with opportunities for proper development. These include the following:

  • Improving the conditions and supervision of private frameworks attended by the children.
  • Guiding parents and the staff of private frameworks on nutrition, hygiene, and enrichment.
  • Explaining to parents the importance of health insurance for children.
  • Increasing the accessibility of services and adapting them to the population’s characteristics, while considering language barriers and the parents’ long work hours.

The findings have been discussed by a steering committee comprising representatives of health, education, and social services in Tel Aviv-Yafo, and were presented at a seminar organized by the municipality.

Citations in the professional and academic literature


Friedlander, A. L. (2010). In: Who Pays the Price? ISBN 978-1-60876-320-7 Editors: M. Shechory, S. Ben David and D. Soen© 2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Who Pays the Price?: Foreign Workers, Society, Crime and the Law, 137.