As intense discussions continued over the merits and pitfalls of the Trajtenberg
recommendations for countrywide socio-economic reform, another debate raised its
head again this week. The government’s goal to ultimately increase the
retirement age for women to bring it in line with the retirement age for
“Netanyahu is talking about social change but in reality the only
change that is being made is actually negative and is coming at the expense of
working women,” commented Kadima MK Dalia Itzik, one of the many
parliamentarians that has vehemently opposed raising the retirement age for
Her comments were in response to reports Tuesday that Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz had presented his recommendation to the Knesset’s
Finance Committee – contradicting suggestions made earlier this summer by the
treasury-appointed Nissan Committee – to increase the retirement age for women
in the coming months from 62 to 64. The retirement age for men is
“There was a vote in the Knesset in July on legislation proposing to
freeze the retirement age at 62. There were 68 MKs present and Steinitz was the
only one who voted against the proposals. I do not understand why he does not
hear what the Knesset is saying or why he is not listening to the cries of the
social protesters,” said Talia Livni, president of Na’amat, one of a large
number of women’s rights organizations that have been lobbying against
increasing the retirement age for women.
“We plan to lobby MKs to support
the laws [that will stop the retirement age from increasing],” continued Livni,
explaining that increasing the age of retirement for women will be detrimental
to women who work in low-salaried jobs or who cannot find employment because of
their mature age.
The argument of the women’s groups against raising the
age of retirement stems from what they perceive as major gender inequalities
prevalent in the workforce, which they feel have yet to be addressed by the
government in any substantial sense.
“We can’t talk about equality
between men and women only at the age of retirement, when throughout their
entire working life men and women are not equal at all,” explained Dorit
Abramovitch, who was appointed to coordinate the recently formed Coalition for
Organizations against Raising Women’s Retirement Age in Israel.
coalition includes a wide range of women’s groups such as Na’amat, the Women’s
International Zionist Organization (WIZO), Mahut Center, Itach, the Israel
Women’s Network (IWN) and social rights organizations the Adva Center and the
Association of Civil Rights in Israel.
“First the state has to deal with
employment opportunities for women who are middle-aged and older and it has to
make sure there are consequences for companies that fire or discriminate against
older women,” said Abramovitch. “Once there is a comprehensive program to tackle
this problem then we can talk about increasing the retirement age,” she
“Retirement age today is 62, which is optional; if a woman has a
successful career then she is likely to continue working until 67, but roughly
50 percent of women want to retire at the age of 62 and start receiving their
state pension,” pointed out Abramovitch.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On, who
along with Dalia Itzik and other parliamentarians, is driving legislation aimed
at keeping retirement age at 62, said that increasing the markers now would be
“catastrophic for many women who have been waiting to receive their state
“This will only hurt women in general and make certain groups
even poorer,” said Gal- On. She said that in countries where the government has
started to bring women’s retirement age in line with men’s, it has been as “part
of a process taken over 20 years with credible attempts to reduce gender gaps in
“Women earn less than men,” stated the MK. “It is no good
talking about starting the equality only at the age of retirement. That is not
The storm over Steinitz’s recommendations this week has been
brewing since March, when the minister appointed a special committee to research
whether it was appropriate and practical to have women retire
Headed by then-Finance Ministry budget director Udi Nissan, the
committee concluded that the age should be increased gradually over the next 15
years, with retirement age reaching 64 by 2017 and then 67, the same as men’s,
Although women’s groups slammed Nissan’s recommendations earlier
this summer, the treasury has defended the committee’s suggestions. The treasury
points out that many other countries that, like Israel, are members of the
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have begun a
similar process based on the rationale that the period for which a person
receives a pension is continually growing and therefore there is a need to find
resources to support that extra time.
In addition to increasing the
retirement age, the Nissan panel also recommended implementing a range of
programs and tools aimed at encouraging employment for people more in advanced
years, with an emphasis on women in the workplace.
“I think it is a
mistake to freeze the age of retirement at 62 because then we are playing into
the hands of employers who do not want to invest in older women or [choose to]
fire them from the workplace,” commented lawyer Ofra Friedman, former chairwoman
of Na’amat, who worked with Nissan’s committee.
“By not increasing the
age we are saying that women are not able to work like men and we are putting
ourselves backwards in terms of women’s rights,” she said.
“I have heard
the arguments of women’s groups and I think that it does not move us forward at
all. We should not be seen as poor souls who cannot work; if we paint such a
picture then we are planting this image in the head of the employers,” said
Friedman. “Employers will wonder why it is worth investing in older women if
they know they are going to retire at 60,” she warned.
Friedman, who has
become an active public voice in this debate, has instead suggested increasing
the official retirement age but finding a flexible way to start distributing
National Insurance Institute pensions to women who cannot find work.
really hope that we can find such a solution to this before it all becomes set
in legislation,” she said.
Despite Friedman’s warning, a dearth of
lawmakers, including Itzik, Gal-On, Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat,
who also heads the Ministerial Committee for the Advancement of the Status of
Women, and Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman for the Knesset Committee on the Status of
the Women, have all vowed to block Steinitz from making any proposed changes and
are moving ahead with their legislation.
Now it seems like a race against
the clock. If these bills do not find parliamentary approval in time, then
according to sources in the finance ministry, discussions in the Knesset’s
Finance Committee are only a formality and the age of retirement will be raised
to 64 in the coming months based on previous legislation.