Israeli kids are kept out of school and the economic costs are mounting

The combined pressures of working from home while also parenting children, who are at times very young, is decreasing productivity and increasing stress, expert warn the ‘Post’

An empty classroom in Israel (Illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An empty classroom in Israel (Illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Each week Israel spends in lockdown costs NIS 9 billion, the Bank of Israel warned last month. With schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents have been forced to function as instant teachers, mind their children and – if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs during the unemployment surge – to keep working from home.
This massive change didn’t impact all Israelis equally, economics expert Nabil Armaly told The Jerusalem Post. “Among Arab-Israelis roughly 30% of women work; among the ultra-Orthodox [haredi] we see a mirror image with the majority of the women working,” he pointed out.
It’s more than likely that mothers, especially those of young children or with large families, feel the pressure to cut back on working hours or that their presence at home is needed at this time.
“Many haredi women work in education, a sector that is now closed,” he explained.
On the other hand, half of Arab-Israelis are reported to be poor, and Arab presence is high in sectors hurt by COVID-19 such as tour bus drivers and hotel service providers. Those most hit by the schools closing, Armaly explained, are middle-class families with two working parents who are now unable to ask their own parents to mind the children and are instead expected to teach at home, babysit, and keep a productive working life.
“The social contract with the state used to be that we drop our kids in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon and get a clear working day – that had been broken,” he said.
“The one sector which was not affected is hi-tech,” he said. “And only 3% or 4% of Arabs in Israel are working in it.”
The degree to which hi-tech workers experience a different reality than other Israelis during this time is remarkable.
DayTwo, a Tel Aviv based software company, sponsored a babysitter service for its workers for as long as the current shutdown of schools continues. The system is based entirely on trust. Parents can select the babysitter they desire and get a refund without even showing an invoice.
Tipalti, a fintech company, buys workers whatever they need to create the perfect home office plus a NIS 100 bonus to cover extra Internet usage costs. As a recent OECD study suggested, Israel is a two-speed economy: hi-tech and all the rest.
Half a year ago the direct cost of shutting down elementary schools and high schools (excluding kindergartens) was estimated to be up to NIS 300 million per day, The Marker reported at the time.
At the moment, Israel will not lift the lockdown and place children back in school until infection rates go below a figure that has yet to be determined. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already warned the country, and Israeli parents, that the current policy could last until the year ends.