School closures in lockdowns cost Israelis NIS 850 m. a week in wages

Over half of parents said they or their spouse cut work hours to take care of the kids • 40% felt more stress, anxiety, depression and job insecurity • six times as many women stopped working as men

Anais, a student at the International Bilingual School (EIB), attends her online lessons in her bedroom in Paris as a lockdown is imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread in France, March 20, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/GONZALO FUENTES/FILE PHOTO)
Anais, a student at the International Bilingual School (EIB), attends her online lessons in her bedroom in Paris as a lockdown is imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread in France, March 20, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/GONZALO FUENTES/FILE PHOTO)
Israeli households have lost about NIS 850 million per week as parents cut work hours during the coronavirus to take care of their children when the education system shut down, depleting the income of about 70% of Israeli families, according to a new study released by the Berl Katznelson Foundation on Monday.
More than three million parents have children under the age of 18, and about two million have children aged nine and younger.
The study comes as Israel enters its third coronavirus lockdown, although the education system remains fully open this time, except in red and orange zones.
Among parents who continue to work during the pandemic, 38% reduced their hours to take care of their children and 23% reported that one spouse had reduced work hours to do so. On average, these parents cut their working time by about four hours per day, costing them about NIS 260 per day.
The foundation estimated that work hours lost due to the first two lockdowns cost each household about NIS 7,000, amounting to about NIS 850 million across the nation for each week that the education system was closed.
While some 70% of families reported that their economic status had declined at least somewhat during the pandemic, 29% of them reported that their income has greatly declined.
Some 41% of the parents who responded to the survey reported more stress, anxiety or depression since the pandemic struck, with more women than men feeling this way; 40% of parents reported being more worried about being unemployed than before the pandemic; 44% of parents stated that they relaxed control over their children so that they can continue to work during the pandemic.
During the first lockdown, about 23% of working parents had their parents help take care of their children, despite the health risks involved. In the second lockdown, this percentage rose to 29%.
The survey also showed the number of women who stopped working was six times higher than the number of men who did so.
“Our research reveals the huge price that working parents have paid d and the fact that Israel is one of the countries that did least to help parents during this period,” said Ya’ara Mann, director of society and economics at the foundation, in a press release.
“The Israeli government placed the full financial burden of lost work hours, for caring for children, on the shoulders of parents, who had to choose between their livelihoods and attending to their children at a time when they needed it more than ever.”
Mann added that “most OECD countries, including France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Poland, the UK and others, have implemented programs that allow parents to take leave or reduce working hours.”
The survey was conducted during November among about 600 parents of children up to the age of 18.
The foundation recommended that during school closures parents receive government-paid leave or fewer hours with full pay and rights, to allow them to take care of children to age 12, with workplaces receiving government compensation.
Other recommended options include parental compensation up to NIS 200 per day for childcare for two-parent families and NIS 400 per day for single parents, while allowing parents of children with special needs and in at risk categories to request additional compensation for special expenses.  Private businesses should receive compensation for lost earnings if regulations require narrowing operations. Lastly, the foundation recommended extending maternity leave until the end of the lockdown.
 
THE SURVEY also showed continuing gender inequality in the workforce as the number of women who stopped working was six times higher than the number of men who did the same.
"Our research reveals the huge prices that working parents paid during the corona [crisis] and the fact that Israel is one of the countries that did the least to help parents during this period," said Ya'ara Mann, director of society and economics at the foundation, in a press release.
"The Israeli government placed the full financial burden of lost work hours for caring for children on the shoulders of parents, who had to choose between maintaining their livelihoods and providing the necessary attention to their children – at a time when they needed it more than ever."
Mann added that "most OECD countries, including France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Poland, the UK and others, have implemented programs that allow parents to take leave or reduce working hours for treatment."
The survey was conducted during November among about 600 parents of children up to the age of 18.
The foundation recommended that parents receive compensation for when the education system was and is closed, and to allow parents of children up to the age of 12 to take government-paid vacation time to take care of their children or to work fewer hours without an impact on their wages or rights, with workplaces receiving compensation from the government. 
Other options that the foundation recommended include allowing parents to request compensation for up to NIS 200 per day for childcare in two-parent families and NIS 400 per day for single parents; allow parents of children with special needs to request additional compensation from the government for special expenses; and to allow parents of children in at-risk groups and have been advised to stay at home to request the same recommended benefits listed above, even if they otherwise wouldn't be eligible.
The foundation also called on the government to take responsibility for providing childcare for essential workers and single parents during lockdowns.
Private frameworks that could remain open should be allowed to do so and should receive compensation for lost earnings if regulations require narrowing operations, it advised.
The foundation additionally recommended extending maternity leave until the end of the lockdown.