Children at school.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Economy Ministry said it allocated an additional NIS 200 million for the planning and building of hundreds of new classrooms in daycare centers for children up to the age of three.
The spending follows new reforms implemented by the Economy Ministry in September, in cooperation with the Finance Ministry and Union of Local Authorities in Israel, with the goal of constructing additional daycare centers throughout the country within two years.
As part of the reforms, the ministry offered an incentive of up to 100%-government funding for local municipalities to speed up the construction and it also will provide recognition of higher building costs, remove bureaucratic barriers and provide a shortened budgeting track.
“The reform is the result of policies to remove the obstacles, reduce the cost of living and help parents join the labor market,” said Amit Lang, director-general of the ministry.
In 2012, following recommendations by the Trajtenberg Committee to build daycare centers, the ministries approved a budget of some NIS 1.2 billion toward their implementation, of which nearly half was transferred to local authorities. Despite this move, just a handful of centers were built over the past two years.
With the publication of the new regulations, hundreds of requests were submitted to the ministry in the planning, construction and moving tracks, of which the ministry’s allocations committee approved a budget to build approximately 700 new classrooms in some 250 centers.
“The fact that such a significant budget of NIS 1.2 billion allocated to the issue did not lead to significant construction in recent years demanded quick and significant action, and the high demand that accompanied the first allocation is proof that it is indeed an efficient, accessible and fast format,” Lang explained.
According to the Economy Ministry, there is a severe shortage of supervised and subsidized daycare centers.
To date, some 90,000 children up to the age of three, accounting for roughly a quarter of this age group, attend government supervised and subsidized daycare centers. The government provides yearly subsidies totaling some NIS 900 million to the tens of thousands of parents whose children are accepted into the highly sought after centers.
Those children not accepted are placed in family care or private daycare centers that are not subsidized nor supervised by the government.
“I am sure the new regulation will bring about a significant change in the supply of daycare centers in the coming years, alongside more workers joining the labor market, and a significant reduction in the cost of living,” he said.