The alleged budget shortfall cited as the reason for the cut to child payments was just an excuse, according to Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Chairman of the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi).
“Child payments are not a top priority, even though the state has money,” he said Tuesday, speaking the Conference for the Welfare of the Child at Ben-Gurion University.
“The time has come to reexamine the cut to child payments, and to at least provide solutions for struggling families as compensation for the benefits they lost,” he urged.
Israel is relatively well-off compared to other countries in the OECD, Mor-Yosef said, but despite that fact, its child benefit payments are relatively low.
He proposed an alternative to renewing monthly child payments to parents: a national savings plan that would be used to save money for each child until the completion of their army service. This would assist young adults in breaking the cycle of poverty, he explained.
Professor Asher Ben-Aryeh of the Haruv Institute – an institute dedicated to educating caregivers who work with abused and neglected children and their families – agreed with Mor-Yosef that a national savings plan could help children transitioning to adulthood. However, he said, it must not come at the expense of the current monthly payments.
Many families need the monthly child payments to pay for necessities, he said. However, Ben-Aryeh, too, proposed an alternative payment plan, one which would give the highest monthly sum for the first child.
Child payments were switched in recent years to a set amount per child, after decades during which more money was given for higher birth-order children.
Ben-Aryeh called to “flip the pyramid” and provide the greatest financial assistance to couples with one child. The first child in the family is most likely to be born to young parents with relatively low incomes, he explained.
Dr. Roni Kaufman of Ben-Gurion University agreed with Mor-Yosef that the cut to child payments was not financially necessary. The cut pushed tens of thousands of children under the poverty line, he argued – and ultimately, he said, the claims of a massive deficit which were used to justify the cut were proven to have been false.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said the cut was financially necessary, but also argued for the cut to benefits for ideological reasons. Lapid said the benefits cut would prove to be a “historic” step in the process of moving “from a benefits culture to a work culture.”