Women’s groups oppose raising retirement age

“It seems the ctee's goal was to save money for state pension funds, not to consider problems facing women in the workforce,” Livnat says.

By
July 5, 2011 04:57
Limor Livnat

limor livnat 311. (photo credit: Haim Tzach)

 
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Women’s rights activists and concerned politicians banded together Monday to increase the pressure on Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to reject recommendations made by a treasury committee aimed at increasing the women’s retirement age from 62 to 67 over the next few years.

Last week the Finance Ministry announced that a specially appointed commission headed by Finance Ministry budget director Udi Nissan had submitted recommendations to increase the women’s retirement in order to bring it in line with the retirement age for men.

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However, throughout the weekend, women’s rights groups and social welfare organizations joined forces to air their opposition to any suggestion of increasing the retirement age for women until the issue of gender inequality in the work place has been comprehensively tackled.

“We can’t talk about equality between men and women only at the age of retirement when throughout their entire working life of men and women are not equal at all,” said Dorit Abramovitch, who was immediately appointed coordinator of the Coalition for Organizations against Raising Women’s Retirement Age in Israel, which includes a mix of women’s groups such as Naamat, Women’s International Zionist Organization, Mahut Center, Itach and the Israel Women’s Network, as well as social rights organizations the Adva Center and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel.

She said, “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. Once there is a comprehensive program to tackle this problem then we can talk about increasing the retirement age.”

The coalition launched an online petition and started to lobby government officials and parliamentarians to protest such a move.



Coalition representatives and concerned officials met with minister Limor Livnat early Monday morning in an emergency session of the Ministerial Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

Livnat, who heads the committee, immediately called on Steinitz to release the entire contents of the recommendation commission’s report so that a fuller debate could be held.

She said her committee would immediately draft counter legislation by the end of this year that would prevent the retirement age from being increased to 64.

Later on Monday, MK Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women together with the coalition of women’s and rights groups already started work on the legislation proposed by Livnat.

“It seems that the goal of the committee was only to save money for state pension funds and not to consider the overall problems facing women in the workforce,” commented Livnat.

Vered Swid, the prime minister’s adviser on issues connected to the status of women, was one of the four involved in drafting the recommendations, and she also met with Livnat on Monday.

She said in a statement that the Finance Ministry had falsely suggested that the decision by the commission to increase the retirement age for women was unanimous.

“I want to protest this deception,” wrote Swid. “On Thursday, the Finance Ministry issued a statement that there was a wall to wall consensus among committee members [about increasing the retirement age]. That is not true. There is great discrimination against women in the labor market, including in the civil service and those who will be hurt most by this move are the women from the most disadvantaged populations.”

In response, a spokeswoman for the Finance Ministry pointed out that increasing the retirement age was a natural progression in keeping with longer life-expectancy rates.

“The period that a person receives a pension is growing and therefore there is a need to find resources to support that extra time,” she said, adding that equalizing the retirement age of men and women was one step forward to closing the gender gaps in the labor market.

“We are talking about a process of 15 years, with the first phase being to increase the retirement age to 64 by 2017 and then raise it 67 by 2026,” added the spokeswoman, who said that the minister has yet to fully read the recommendations and make a decision.

The ministry also pointed out that among the recommendations to increase the age of retirement for women was also a range of programs and tools aimed at encouraging employment for people of more advanced years, with an emphasis on women in the work place.

Abramovitch explained that today there is widespread discrimination against women aged 45-50 and up, with many women being laid off when they reach middle age. Afterwards women struggle to find alternative employment and often take on work in the service industry, which pays little more than the minimum wage.

“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,” she said, highlighting that in countries where the retirement age has been increased the government simultaneously created programs to encourage the employment and training for women.

Abramovitch also pointed out the wage disparities between the genders in Israel, where the latest research shows there is a 30-35% difference in the pay scale for men and women.

As part of the group’s lobbying attempts, a meeting was also held with Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon, who said Monday that any decision about the retirement age had to include recommendations from his office. He said that women’s participation in the workforce was steadily increasing and agreed to draft an official opinion on the matter.

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