Oct 17, 2021

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Some 20,000 Israeli men over 67 and women over 62 who continued to work after pension age because they needed the income but were fired by their employers due to the pandemic are now in serious danger of being thrown below the poverty line without any safety net -. Until October 1, the Treasury paid them a special allotment of between 1,000 (US$ 310) and NIS 4,000 ($1,242 instead of unemployment pay, but that has now been cancelled. 

Although the government promised to initiate special programs to encourage employers to hire the pensioners, fewer than 1,000 of them have found paying jobs. 

After a protest four months ago, the Finance Ministry extended the allotment until the start of October 1, but now that grant has been halted. 

The allotment meant that the unemployed pensioners – who are eager to work – could subsist and being able to cover basic expenses, buy medications and give small gifts to grandchildren. Now they are at their wit’s end about what to do, as they now have to depend on meager monthly National Insurance Institute (NII) old-age payments. 

The basic old-age pension rate is NIS 1,558 (as of Jan 01, 2020) for an individual and NIS 2,342 (as of Jan 01, 2020) for a couple (the pension rate for a couple is composed of a pension for an individual plus an increment for the spouse). The basic old-age pension rate for those aged 80 or older is NIS 1,646 (as of Jan 01, 2020) for an individual and NIS 2,430 (as of Jan 01, 2020) for a couple. If each spouse separately meets the conditions of entitlement to an old-age pension, each of them will receive an individual pension.

These sums are totally inadequate to cover even minimum expenses of the elderly, many of whom do not have regular pensions from their employers or who immigrated without such benefits. 

Aware of the serious impact on the pensioners, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry asked the Treasury to continue giving the allotments, but that ministry refused. The NII also made various suggestions to the Knesset and government ministries, but none was accepted. 

Some of the pensioners applied for jobs, even to work with elderly confined to their homes, but when potential employers heard that they were in their late 60s and early 70s, they turned them away. 

Voluntary organizations that fight for pensioners’ rights insist that many of them are in the prime of life, full of energy, free of burdens of taking care of children and dedicated to any employer who hires them. There are cabinet ministers who are the same age as these unemployed, soon-to-be-poverty-stricken Israelis, but they receive generous paychecks.