Rights group demands alternative aid plan for unemployed women

Na'amat president: More than 60% of those who have been fired from their jobs in the past few months were women.

woman shadow 88 (photo credit: )
woman shadow 88
(photo credit: )
More women than men are out of work due to the current economic crisis, so the government needs to directly address their needs and create a plan to help soften the blow, according to women's rights organization Na'amat, which called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week to deal with the issue. "The statistics show that more than 60 percent of those who have been fired from their jobs in the past few months were women," stated Na'amat president Talia Livni in a letter which The Jerusalem Post obtained on Wednesday. "There has been a lot of discussion about plans for economic recovery and schemes to help the unemployed, but little has been said about how to help the growing number of women affected by the economic situation." Figures published earlier this month from the Israel Employment Service showed that 60% of the more than 10,000 people who lost their jobs over the past four months were women. A spokeswoman for the service said it was still unclear whether this was typical during times of economic recession. In her letter, Livni outlined several steps the government should take to ease economic hardship and improve the situation, including continuing subsidies for child care, tighter regulations on firing pregnant and other vulnerable women, and training programs specifically for unemployed women. Referring to the child care issue, Livni said mothers who were laid off not only lost their livelihoods, but also forfeited subsidies for daycare, babysitters and after-school programs, which were only available for women who work. "The situation today is that only children whose mothers are working are entitled to government subsidies," she explained. "Children of women who are fired are no longer entitled to the discount." She urged the prime minister to change those regulations so even women who lost their jobs could continue to receive the benefits "at least until the end of this academic year or until such time as they find alternative employment." She added that "it will not cost the government additional monies because the funds for this program have already been budgeted." In addition, the letter pushed the government to make it legally impossible for employers to fire pregnant women or single mothers. Currently, the law only partially protects such women, said Livni, because there are special allowances for women to be laid off if the circumstances are not connected to their pregnancy. "As a result, employers do not consider whether someone is pregnant or not when they fire large numbers of staff," she wrote. "The chances of a pregnant woman finding alternative employment is very slim, and we ask that it be made impossible for pregnant women to be fired for any reason at all." The organization also asked that the same rule be applied to all single parents, of whom 95% are women. The letter went on to criticize the government's recently unveiled employment recovery plan, which, according to Na'amat, applies largely to men. "In the government program designed to address unemployment, there is no direct reference to the large number of unemployed women," wrote Livni, highlighting that the plan talked about utilizing the unemployed for army reserve duty, building and roadwork projects. The organization suggested a program that would utilize unemployed women to teach Hebrew to new immigrants and Israeli Arabs. A spokeswoman from the Prime Minister's Office said the government would look into the suggestions.