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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Minister for Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog announced Monday his intentions to create a plan that could ultimately improve the economic conditions for thousands of single-parent families who rely heavily on welfare handouts from the National Insurance Institute, and provide them with a real incentive to rejoin the workforce.
Herzog's plan, which is also backed by NII Director-General Dr. Yigal Ben-Shalom and Minister of Labor, Trade and Industry Eli Yishai, would guarantee a certain level of child support and other benefits to single parents who found employment.
If approved by the government and the Knesset, the new plan would be in contrast to the current situation whereby single parents on welfare automatically forfeit their monthly benefits, causing them in turn to lose rent, city tax and other important subsidies if they get a job.
"I have analyzed the situation for these single-parent families and hopefully designed a viable solution," Herzog said in a statement. "My aim is to remove the obstacles for a single parent to go out and find work or to study and not lose their child benefits or income support."
Ben-Shalom explained that currently 22,000 single mothers received child support from the NII because their former spouses had either disappeared or refused to pay them support.
Statistics from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services suggest that around 44 percent of the country's 121,600 single parents receive some form of NII benefits.
Marina Shefer, 52, a single mother of one, told The Jerusalem Post that such a move would greatly improve the situation for parents like as herself who are forced to find work on the black market or risk losing the little income they do receive from the government.
"My child support from NII is NIS 2,200 a month but I also get a 75% reduction on my arnona (property tax) and help with my rent," explained Shefer, who in recent years has set up Zricha (Need), a movement to counsel and support other single mothers in her Tel Aviv neighborhood. "If I go out to work, I'm not likely to find anything that pays more than minimum wage [currently NIS 3,700], and then I'll lose all the other benefits. Its just not worth it."
Instead, Shefer told the Post,/i> that she had opted for work that pays her off the books, such as cleaning jobs. Not ideal, she said, because "recently I had a heart attack and was left with no rights or benefits as a back up."
"The situation forces people to work on the black market, then they receive no employee rights or benefits," continued Shefer. "I hear so many similar stories from other women; the current situation is absurd."
According to Herzog's spokeswoman, Pnina Ben-Ami, guaranteeing that working single parents still receive certain levels of benefits - depending on their income - will cost the state NIS 86 million a year.
Statistics collected by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services found that in 2006, 12% of all Israeli families had only one parent, with 96% of them being single mothers and the rest single fathers. Sixty eight percent of single parent families were the result of divorce, 20% were single parents to begin with and 12% were widows or widowers.