Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Wednesday the application of earning capacity as a criterion for eligibility for subsidizing day-care centers intended for ages 0-3. This is a significant change in the threshold conditions aimed at encouraging the parents of toddlers to integrate into the labor market – and is a first step towards the goal of “free education from zero age” for families where both parents work, which the minister announced upon entering office.
The main victims of this decision are the close to 18,000 chareidi families in which the father learns in yeshivah or kollel – who until today were entitled to the subsidy. Until now, the criteria to qualify for eligibility was income levels, while only the mother was required to work at least part-time, which allowed fathers to continue learning.
According to the change now, the spouse will also have to work at least 24 hours a week (part-time), and the Finance Ministry has determined that in order to receive a subsidy in cases where the spouse does not work, he must study and acquire education or skills.
About 85,000 children currently receive a subsidy for day care, which is about NIS 1,000 per child, subject to income, of whom about 23,000 are entitled to a subsidy with one of their parents on a study track. However, only 1,500 study at an educational institution, and in 21,000 cases – the overwhelming majority – the father studies at a yeshivah. In other words, about a quarter of all eligible children.
The cost of the subsidy given to date is NIS 1.2 billion a year, of which NIS 400 million is for the 21,000 toddlers whose fathers study at a yeshivah. The Finance Ministry emphasizes that the existing mechanism does not encourage work, and any household that starts work will receive the support according to the criteria.
The Finance Ministry clarified that the usual eligibility rules will remain as they are – per capita income, eligibility for single parents, and so on – and as long as the parents enter the labor market during the school year, they will be able to receive a subsidy from the start of work. The new rules will apply from the next school year, which will begin in less than two months.
Chairman of United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni commented: “The criterion set by Liberman will prevent a working woman whose husband is learning Torah the subsidy for a child in the day-care center and will cause severe economic harm to these families.
“We are waiting for Bennett, who said that he will not allow any harm to the chareidi public, and here we see that the first and most severe decree signed by the evil Liberman comes against the chareidi public, working women and talmidei chachamim.”
Shas chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri noted that the “first decision of the Finance Minister is to harm the chareidi public.”
He added that “Liberman, in a predatory and vicious move, decided to harm families with children only because they are chareidi. Bennett and Sa’ar, who promised to ‘take care of the needs of the chareidi public,’ formed a hate government that is out the harm to the Torah world.”