Justice in Israel

Recent Study Findings Demand We Revisit Benefit Policy for Single Mothers

1 Comment 05 March 2018

On Monday February  26 2018,  the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty approached the Israeli government concerning the findings of a study presented the prior week at the Knesset during the Day for the Struggle Against Poverty. The study once again showed that reducing benefits to single mothers reduces their earning capacity. Contrary to the myth, the obsession with “pushing” those in poverty to work actually undermines their economic autonomy.

Conclusions: Paid labor of economically disadvantaged groups should be accompanied by a effective work-supporting policy.

The Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty appealed to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz to discuss a change in the welfare benefits policy in light of a study presented February 20th at the Knesset on the Day for the Struggle against Poverty. The study, presented in the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (it was its first presentation to Israeli government officials), examines the income of women before and after their divorces and reveals serious concerns over the current benefits policy. The study was conducted by Dr. Anat Herbst-Debbie of Bar-Ilan University and Dr. Amit Kaplan of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College.

The study examined women of similar social statuses over two periods of time (1995-2003 and 2004-2008). The separate periods were marked by two different welfare policies, with the shift having occurred with welfare reform in 2003 which resulted in  massive benefit cuts.

The study found an increase in income generated by women following divorce, attributable to a women’s need to make-up for the economic difficulties associated with it. However, although women increased their wages during both time periods following their divorce, in the first period, before the benefit cuts, the income increase was more significant. Thus, after the cutbacks, the earning capacity of divorced women became lower, allotting them less economic autonomy. The researchers’ hypothesis is that the higher earning power in the first period was a result of a welfare policy that made it easier for women to go to work when they were receiving employment supporting services, such as assistance with childcare or a significant “disregard” (a sum of women’s income under which what they earn is not cut off from the welfare allowances they receive).

Because many single mothers live in poverty or on the edge of poverty, this study is yet another in a series of studies that paints a bleak picture. Not only does the reduction of benefits harm the lives of those living in poverty, it is even contrary to the stated purpose of the policy: It actually erodes the likelihood of single mothers achieving economic autonomy— it simply does not get them there. Once again, we see how the implicit, and sometimes explicit, assumption of a policy of slashing allowances gets it all wrong: Seeking to “educate” those in poverty and single mothers to be productive and independent is not only condescending, but  counterproductive and at odds with the facts.

In light of these findings, the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty calls on Minister of Welfare Haim Katz, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the welfare policy.

The study by Dr. Anat Herbst-Debbie and Dr. Amit Kaplan was published as an article entitled Mothers’ Postdivorce Earnings in the Context of Welfare Policy Change in the journal International Journal of Social Welfare.

The letter was sent by Rabbis for Human Rights as part of the Forum for the Struggle Against Poverty. Copies of the letter were sent to: the Chair of the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, MK Eli Alaluf; the Chair of the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality, MK Aida Toma-Sliman; Director-General of the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, Dr. Avigdor Kaplan; Director-General of the Ministry of Finance, Shai Babad, and the Director General of the National Insurance Institute, Meir Spiegel.

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  1. Philip McFedries says:

    You are the true face of Israel.

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