Senior Citizens in the Israeli Labour Market
Over the past two years, we have worked to facilitate the employment of people past retirement age in partnership with experts, activists and civic groups.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, almost a quarter million Israelis continued working past the official retirement age (62 for women, 67 for men). The employment rate for senior citizens was one of the highest among developed countries, after rising dramatically since the early 2000s, when it was among the lowest in the OECD. Yet government policy lagged behind this rapid change, reflected in benefit rules which penalized workers, mandatory retirement requirements which pushed out people who wanted to continue working, and no tools to curb the ageism that is rampant in the labour market. During a time of full employment, 121 worked to address these issues, by developing and advancing relevant policy solutions.
Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
Following the COVID-19 crisis, we are focusing our attention on the plight of older workers who have been dismissed or furloughed. Specifically, there are two such groups, which are not entitled to full unemployment benefits (which are up to 80% of previous salary for a period of seven months).
A. Workers over age 67 of all genders
Before the pandemic, there were 150,000 workers over age 67. They are not entitled to unemployment benefits. Those who have been dismissed or furloughed receive only a senior citizen benefit of 2,300 NIS. 58% of these workers have no private pension income, so job loss for them generally leads to poverty. Our advocacy, including a public campaign in which 8,500 emails were sent to the Prime Minister and relevant ministers, has already pressured to government to provide a monthly grant of 4,000 NIS to these unemployed workers, for the period from mid-March to the end of May 2020.
B. Working women aged 62-67
Before the pandemic, there were 80,000 women who worked between ages 62-67. They are eligible for unemployment benefits, but if they receive them, they lose their senior citizen benefit. Because of this provision, those who have been dismissed or furloughed lose income of up to 2,300 NIS, over and above the gap between their unemployment benefits and their salaries. For low income women, this benefit is a key component of their household budget and losing it at the same time as their jobs can leave them unable to cover basic expenses like housing and utilities.
We organized a group of 23 social organizations, who have jointly demanded these women will be allowed to receive both unemployment and senior citizen benefit.
We are working with Israel's leading media outlets to ensure coverage of this issue, resulting in prominent television, radio and press items. Leveraging this public campaign, our direct advocacy with decision makers has resulted in a government bill that will resolve this problem for the period of March-May 2020. We have also successfully pressured the Ministry of Finance to modify their initial position that rejected this bill.
1. Extend the grant for furloughed/dismissed workers over the age of 67 for the duration of the employment crisis and enshrine it in law.
After that, we will work to develop and enact solutions for those who will remain unemployed in the crisis’ aftermath.
2. Ensure swift enactment of the bill providing full unemployment benefits for furloughed/dismissed women, aged 62-67.
After this is accomplished, we will work to extend this bill beyond May 2020, for the duration of the crisis, and ensure a permanent solution for this problem.
3. Develop and promotes policy proposals to facilitate the re-entry to the workforce of those workers over retirement age who were dismissed or furloughed during the pandemic.
Many of them will find it harder to return to work even after businesses are re-opened, due to ageism and physical constraints. Possible solutions may include revising benefit rules which penalize workers or offering employer incentives.
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