Ministry of Finance: Net gender

Etti Aflallo, Calcalist, April 24th, 2019

CEO: Shai Babad; Accountant General: Rony Hizkiyahu; Chief Economist: Shira Greenberg Head of Housing: Zeev Bielski; Head of the Budget Division: Shaul Meridor

The Ministry of Finance has a very central role in almost every aspect of our lives, since it is the office that decides to a large extent where budgets will be directed and which policy will be promoted. During the last term, one of these policy questions related to raising the retirement age for women and raising the age of entitlement to the old-age pension.

This public debate has been going on for more than a decade, with the combination of extended life expectancy in general and longer life expectancy for women – women are utilizing their pension for more years and in its entirety.

The problem is that any solution proposed to this challenge creates other problems: Those who demand that the retirement age for women be raised, argue that without such a move, a reduction in the pension benefits of all pensioners will be required in order to maintain the stability of the funds. On the other hand, those opposed to raising the retirement age argue that it will harm disadvantaged populations: the labor market is not friendly to older women, and many of them are expelled from it many years before retirement; Of those who remain in the labor market, many are stuck in roles such as farm workers, and raising the retirement age will actually harm these populations.

The Ministry of Finance submitted an outline for raising the retirement age for women, but this was not accepted by the Knesset Finance Committee, which offered a softened outline that, along with raising the eligibility age, offers another series of steps to provide a safety net for weakened women. But the Finance Ministry did not advance the outline, and the issue stalled.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Finance did not promote significant budgeting of measures to adjust the labor market to older workers, in preparation for the future increase in the retirement age (which the Bank of Israel and the Finance Ministry agree are necessary).

In terms of the policy promoted by the Ministry during the tenure of the outgoing Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon, attention was paid to young families, mainly through the Neta Family program and the Law on Supervision of the IDF. However, the program focused on consumer measures to reduce costs and missed an opportunity to apply a broader "family policy" in Israel, which would make it easier for mothers to work, and at the same time allow the family to raise children, according to Miriam Salkind of the Women's Lobby.

Another policy step that benefited women was raising the monthly minimum wage to NIS 5,300, and the hourly minimum wage to NIS 29.12. Women constitute an absolute majority among low-wage earners.

Yet another important step was an agreement whereby 10,000 contract workers would be hired directly by the civil service and the terms of another 30-40 thousand contract workers would be improved. Most of the contractor workers are women who concentrate on teaching, social work, nursing and cleaning. However, the reform did not affect the cleaning workers employed in the public sector.

“No woman has served as finance minister, and most of the ministry's top echelon positions are filled by men," says Salkind, noting that only one of the six branches in the treasury is managed by a woman. In 2017, the wage gap between men and women in the office stood at 25%.