MKs to Lapid, Bennett: Budget harms working mothers

Requiring both parents to be employed as a condition for daycare subsidy will encourage women to stay home to watch kids, MK Levy-Abecasis writes.

June 17, 2013 04:48
3 minute read.
Orly Levy-Abecasis.

MK Orly Levy-Abecasis 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

With votes on the budget approaching, coalition MKs, led by Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights chairwoman Orly Levy-Abecasis (Likud Beytenu), demanded Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett make it easier for children to receive subsidized day care.

According to Levy-Abecasis, the new terms for day care subsidies will “bring great harm to many and varied population groups, including women from weaker sectors, whom the government says it wants to encourage to join the workforce.”

The 2013-2014 budget added “effective earning capacity” as a condition for receiving subsidized day care tuition.

This means that both parents must work or be serving in the IDF or civilian service – working a combined 125 percent of the time.

A father learning in yeshiva will only be considered employed in the years in which he received a legal deferral of IDF services.

The new conditions will apply in the 2014-2015 school year and after, but the budget bill gives Lapid and Bennett the option of starting the policy in January 2014.

In addition, the rule will be implemented gradually over four years, with fathers being required to work at least 10 hours a week the first year, 15 the second and so on. For every five hours below the minimum a father works, the subsidy will be cut by NIS 100 per month.

Currently, all working mothers receive a day care subsidy in proportion to how much the family earns.

According to Levy-Abecasis, the new conditions harm women, who in most cases play a greater role in raising children than men.

“This role often means giving up a career and leaving the workforce. Therefore, [giving all working women day care subsidies] is meant encourage women to go out and work, empower them and make sure they are not economically dependent on their spouses,” she wrote.

The new budget will have the opposite effect, Levy-Abecasis explained, leading women to stay home and take care of their children.

Married university students who don’t work full time, as well as haredi, Ethiopian, Beduin and Arab women who are often the sole breadwinner in their family will not be able to send their children to day care, she added.

“Women will be left dependent on their husbands and will only increase the socioeconomic gaps we are trying to shrink,” the Likud Beytenu MK wrote.

“Even worse, conditioning subsidies could lead poor women and families to prefer to receive welfare payments rather than work, or encourage employment in the black market.”

The chairwoman also warned that the new law could lead to another “Stroller Protest,” like the one in summer 2011.

Several other coalition MKs signed Levy-Abecasis’ letter, including MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud Beytenu), who coordinates the coalition’s dealings with the budget in the Finance Committee, Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) and Shuli Muallem (Bayit Yehudi), and they plan to work to convince their fellow legislators to vote against requiring both parents to work.

The Finance Ministry responded to Levy-Abecasis’ claims, saying that the new policy is meant to encourage men and women to enter the workforce.

“The change will be implemented in a gradual, proportionate way and recognizes military and civilian service as employment, as well as yeshiva studies recognized as a military service deferral,” a ministry spokesman explained.

Last month, Gamliel and Levy-Abecasis voted against raising value added tax, and MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) walked out rather than rebel against the coalition – but only after giving a plenum speech in which she said Lapid is “spitting in the face” of the middle class.

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