Legal loophole denies homemakers full pension

Elderly women who opted to be housewives during the early years of the state are not entitled to a government pension.

Elderly_521 (photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)
(photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)
Thousands of elderly women who opted to be housewives instead of working outside the home during the early years of the state, are not entitled to a government pension, even if they were born here and contributed to the country by serving in the army, it has been revealed.
Talia Klein Perez, a resident of Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that for the past 10 years her family has been fighting to obtain welfare benefits for her elderly grandmother, Sarah Dugani, 85, and recently was informed by the National Insurance Institute (NII) that because of a 1996 law, homemakers born before 1931 are not entitled to a full state pension.
Currently, said Klein Perez, her grandmother receives a mere NIS 700 as part of her grandfather’s pension. In total, the elderly couple – grandfather Nahum is 95 years old – are forced to live off a mere NIS 2400 a month.
According to information provided by the NII, if Dugani had been born after 1931 she would instead be receiving around NIS 1500 a month in addition to the sum received by her husband.  A spokeswoman for the NII said that some 6400 women born prior to 1931 are not eligible to receive pensions according to the law and therefore their husbands receive an additional amount.
“After all her contributions to the state and because of this law she is not entitled to receive a pension?” said Klein Perez of her grandmother’s situation. “It’s not fair.”
According to Klein Perez, Dagani, who was born in 1926, served in the Hagana, where she taught recruits how to shoot a gun, and later in the IDF. She married here just two months before the declaration of independence in 1948.
“My grandmother raised children and grandchildren here and despite all this she is not entitled to a NII payout because she was a housewife and the law only takes care of those born after 1931,” she said.
Speaking earlier Monday on Israel Radio, Knesset Member Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, explained that the 1996 law had intended to address an inequality in the system suffered by women who had opted to be homemakers during the early years of the state.
The law, which Gafni helped pass 15 years ago, finally entitled women reaching the age of 65 – then the retirement age for men – to receive a full pension even if they had not joined the workforce.
He said that if the law had been expanded to include the group of women born before 1931, some people in the legislature would have blocked its passage completely for being too costly.
Gafni said that in the coming weeks his committee would look at the issue again and attempt to find a solution for those women who had been left out of the law in 1996.
Klein Perez, however, said she was not hopeful that the situation would change any time soon.
“My mother worked on this for 10 years before she passed away two years ago and I have been working on this ever since,” she said. I really hope that there is a change because what is most upsetting is that the law was changed because it was obviously unfair but it was not changed for everyone.”