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(photo credit: Courtesy (file))
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights and Community Advocacy called on the government on Sunday not to repeat past mistakes. They call against reimplementation of the Wisconsin Plan unless significant changes are made.
The Knesset approved a bill back in July reinstating the welfare- to-work program, otherwise known as the Wisconsin Plan.
It is a national unemployment program aimed to ensure recipients of unemployment benefits are actively assisted in their job hunts or trained to acquire the necessary skills for job market integration.
This plan originally started operating in the summer of 2005 in Ashkelon, Sderot, Jerusalem, Hadera, Netanya, Nazareth and Upper Nazareth, and was closed in 2010 after being deemed ineffective.
The new proposal aims to enable recipients to “transition from dependence on the allotments to social and economic independence,” by establishing employment centers where professionals will help the unemployed find work or ensure they are occupied by providing them with a personalized program that may include community service, professional training, or other activities advancing their integration into the job market.
The human rights organizations stressed the need for the government to keep responsibilities concerning functions dedicated to job hunting. These functions include sorting participants, referring them to available jobs, and setting personalized training.
They stated that the new Wisconsin Plan should include cancellation of the mandatory community service of 30-35 hours per week by those unemployed and instead focus more on professional training.
“The big question is whether this time the government program will really help job-seekers,” Tali Nir, director of the socioeconomic rights department at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said.
“For this purpose, the starting point should be a genuine commitment to the welfare and best interests of job-seekers and not the denial of their rights,” she added. “The challenge is to provide them with the tools and skills to ensure long-term remunerative employment, rather than have them succumb to the economic interests of some commercial companies.”
According to Nitzan Tanami from Rabbis for Human Rights, it is also important for the government to “make sure that the plan is not aimed at forcibly pushing into the demanding job market, but at a true integration of citizens into it.”
Among the critics of the plan is Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who was one of the leaders in the campaign to cancel the program in the 18th Knesset. He addressed the ministerial committee that approved the bill earlier this summer and said that, financially, the plan would be ineffective.
According to Gilon, it would cost about NIS 1,400 to find a job for one person through the Wisconsin Plan centers, and NIS 99 via the existing National Employment Service.
“Why is the cost so high?” he asked. “Is job placement an art, handiwork or macramé? Whose interest is behind this?” The Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee plans to discuss the issue on Monday.
Employees of branches of the National Employment Service nationwide have announced they will strike to protest against the Wisconsin Plan. They say it will eliminate employment services and abandon the weakest population to the private sector.