The number of low-income households and individuals in Taiwan reached 146,000 and 357,000 respectively as of the end of last year, up 13.8 percent and 13.7 percent from a year earlier, statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior showed on Saturday.
As of the end of last year, the country had 89,000 low-to-medium-income households (also known as the near-poor) totaling 282,000 people, according to the ministry figures.
The ministry said 35,000 low- income and low-to-medium income households totaling 639,000 people were approved for financial aid under the amended Social Assistance Act (社會救助法), representing 2.9 percent of the nation’s total households and 2.7 percent of the total population.
The act, which took effect in July 2011, lowered the income threshold to define poor and near-poor people, making more Taiwanese eligible for financial support.
The number of Taiwanese applying for aid under the new definition continued to rise last year, accounting for some of the increase in those identified in Taiwan as poor, the ministry said.
The three cities with the highest number of low-income families and individuals approved for social support as of the end of last year were Greater Kao-hsiung, New Taipei City (新北市) and Taipei.
Taitung, Penghu and Pingtung counties had the highest percentage of individuals and households receiving low-income subsidies.
The ministry said that last year, cities and counties around the country spent a total of NT$11.5 billion (US$387.34 million) on social welfare, including NT$10.98 billion on financial aid for the poor and near poor.
Spending on social assistance increased by NT$2.93 billion year-on-year, with subsidies for living support increasing by NT$2.8 billion.