Orit Farkash-Hacohen
Orit Farkash-Hacohen Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White) is pushing forward a plan to provide free education for infants and toddlers from birth to three years, Israel Hayom reported.

The plan was recently presented to the Finance Ministry, and according to Blue and White, extensive economic work has been put into it, and it has become part of the party's coalition demands.

Farkash-Hacohen is pushing for the bill to pass as a long-term plan ahead of discussions on the 2023-2024 budget. In an interview with Israel Hayom several weeks ago, she said, "One of the things that I am advancing is an historic decision - free education for ages 0-3. This is an investment in the next generation, and it will also make things easier for the young couples who are working."

"We need to place an emphasis on couples who are working and also take care of the young women, many of whom are unemployed. Couples consider which is more worthwhile for them - to go out to work, or to pay for daycare for children. This will save several thousand shekels each month and really help the young couples."

In Israel, just 16% of the expenditure on early childhood education is provided by the government, leaving parents to pay the other 84%. In OECD countries, meanwhile, the public pays an average of 70%.

It is estimated upon implementation of such a program, even if only for ages 2-3, around 5,000 mothers would immediately seek to rejoin the workforce.

The idea to fully fund daycare for infants is not new: It was first suggested a few years ago, and in 2020 the Blue and White party adopted it as part of the party's platform.

Daycare for ages three months to three years is heavily subsidized, and government discounts are provided based on income per person and the number of hours a mother works. In the case of same-sex parents, the partners can choose which parent is listed as the mother, making it easier for them to receive the discount.

It is not yet clear if the free education for ages 0-3 will become mandatory, the way preschool for three- and four-year olds became mandatory six years after the implementation of the, "Free Education From Age Three" law.

That law was passed with a section that "education" for children ages three and four would become mandatory within six years, but the section was hidden from the public, and the law was instead touted as one which would save parents thousands of shekels annually.

The law was not immediately enforced after a six-year period, however, and only in the past few years have municipalities begun to interfere when parents choose not to send their young children to preschool or choose to send them to a private instead of public framework.