MKs support move to scrap Wisconsin Plan

The program has been consistently criticized for forcing employment on elderly, disabled or unsuitable people.

wisconsin plan 88 (photo credit: )
wisconsin plan 88
(photo credit: )
The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee said Wednesday it will support scrapping the Mehalev "welfare-to-work" program, commonly known as the Wisconsin Plan. During the panel's meeting, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said Mehalev had been a failure and that he had already notified all those involved that it would not continue beyond July, when contracts for the two-year pilot expire. Yishai added that only 8 or 9 percent of participants had managed to find work. "I support the decision of the industry, trade and labor minister to discontinue the Wisconsin Plan and promise him our full support in finding an alternative plan that is not so negative and will allow people to go out to work," committee chairman Moshe Sharoni (Gil Pensioners Party) said. The Mehalev program, which began operation in August 2005 and is currently run by four multinational companies in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Hadera-Wadi Ara and Sderot-Ashkelon, has been consistently criticized for attempting to force unemployed people who are elderly, disabled or totally unsuitable for employment to participate in the program full-time or have their social welfare benefits stopped. Last month, 83 MKs - including Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who was involved in initiating the program when he was finance minister, and coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) - lent their support to a bill calling for the program to be immediately canceled. On February 4, the government decided to set up an interministerial committee to draft drastic changes to the Wisconsin program with the help of social advocacy groups and some of Mehalev's fiercest critics. On Tuesday, however, the Bank of Israel reiterated its support for the continuation of the program - with adjustments - as an important way to reduce government expenditure and said that in its first year of operation Mehalev, succeeded in placing a large number of participants in jobs.