Issue 18: Unemployment Benefits
Please clarify why, since 2002, the number of persons eligible for unemployment benefits has reportedly been reduced by half, and why, in 2007, only a quarter of the unemployed were entitled to unemployment benefits.
Reductions of Unemployment benefits
Over the past decade, stricter conditions have been introduced for eligibility for unemployment benefits, denying unemployment benefits to many unemployed persons; at the same time, the sum of unemployment benefits has been reduced. According to figures provided by the National Insurance Institute, just before the stricter criteria for receipt of unemployment benefits were introduced, a little less than half of all unemployed persons were eligible for unemployment benefits (in 2003). One year after the stricter conditions were introduced, this figure fell to just one-fourth. In 2010, approximately 27% of unemployed persons were eligible for unemployment benefits.41
Some examples of the ongoing erosion of unemployment insurance in recent years:42
Eligibility was restricted to a period of 4 years: In 2000, it was decided that a person under the age of 40 will be eligible for only two periods of unemployment, in the second of which the period of eligibility was reduced to 80% of the number of days and 85% of the sum of unemployment benefits.
Period of work required as a condition for receiving unemployment benefits was doubled: At the end of 2002, it was decided that the period granting entitlement to receive unemployment benefits will be extended from 6 to 12 months, out of a consecutive period of 18 months preceding the period of unemployment.
Period of eligibility for unemployment benefits was reduced: The period of payment, which was previously either 138 or 175 days, depending on age and family status, was reduced and now ranges between 50 to 175 days.
Unemployment benefits for young people were cut by approximately 25%.
Unemployment benefits during vocational training were decreased: The eligibility of an unemployed person during vocational training was reduced to just 70% of the level of the unemployment benefits.
Requirement to offer unemployed persons work commensurate with their education and training was restricted: In 2008, it was decided that after of a period of between 2 to 4 weeks, the Employment Service can send unemployed persons under the age of 35 to any work, even if it is not commensurate with their training and education. If the individual refuses the position offered, they will be denied unemployment benefits.
Income Support Payments
Income Support Payments is the final safety net for a family that has no other source of income in Israel. Over the years, this benefit has become very modest and does not permit families left without any assets or other sources of income to live in dignity or to enjoy nutritional security.
The watershed in this respect was the Budget Arrangements Law for 2003. The Supplementary Income Law established, with its enactment in January 1982, payment of benefits on two levels – an increased rate and an ordinary rate. The ordinary rate was approximately 80% of the increased rate. The introduction of two rates sought to reflect the principle that the level of the benefits should be adjusted according to the period of time in which the claimant is expected to face distress. The ordinary rate was intended for claimants who were part of the workforce, but who had encountered temporary distress for a period not exceeding two years. The increased rate was intended for those whose distress is not temporary. In April 1992, the eligibility was also extended to include single-parent families in which the single parent is divorced or single, even if they had not been in the system for two full years. The Reduction of the Dimensions of Poverty and Income Gaps Law of 1994 increased the level of the benefits and established that a claimant aged 46 or above, who was found eligible for the benefits, would receive the increased rate even if he or she had been in the system for less than two years.43
The Budget Arrangements Law for 2003 abolished the entitlement to receive the increased rate of Income Support Payments for claimants aged 46-54, as well as the transition from the ordinary rate to the increased rate for those who had been in the system for two years. The ordinary rate was reduced by up to 20%, depending on the composition of the family, while the increased rate for single-parent families was reduced by 23%. The benefits for new claimants aged 46-54 was reduced by up to 32%, depending on the composition of the family. Single claimants under the age of 25, as well as childless couples where both partners were under the age of 25, became eligible for only 80% of the ordinary rate, with certain exceptions established in the law.44
Changes were also introduced to the employment test. Until January 2003, some individuals were required to report to the Employment Service in order to find work, while others were exempt. Exemptions included mothers of children aged 7 or under and widows with children of any age. However, even among those who did not enjoy such exemption, the Employment Service implemented varying rules regarding the dates of reporting, based on the individual’s ability to be integrated in the labor market. As of January 2003, the Employment Service is no longer authorized to define a claimant for supplementary income as temporarily or permanently unplaceable. The main amendment regards mothers of young children: Prior to this legislation, mothers whose youngest child had not yet reached the age of 7 were exempt from the employment test. After the amendments, mothers are exempt only until their child reaches the age of 2, and the position of widows was brought into line with that of mothers of young children.46
In addition, the parameters for the income test were changed. Among other changes, the level of income from work or pension not included in determining eligibility was changed; the level of offsetting of benefits was reduced by a varying percentage according to the composition of the family; and the level of income preventing eligibility was reduced according to the level of the new benefits.45
These administrative changes, introduced under the cloak of the Budget Arrangements Law, had grave ramifications.47 Of 125,000 families who received benefits in mid-2002, some 103,000 faced a cut in their benefits or were denied benefits altogether. Of those families denied benefits, 80% were single-parent families.48 The average reduction in the benefits was NIS 620 a month for families affected, equivalent to 29% of the benefits provided prior to the legislative changes. The legislation led to an immediate saving of approximately NIS 800-850 million per year in supplementary income payments.49
In addition to the reduction of the benefits, the government decided in 2002-2003 to cut or cancel ancillary benefits. Automatic discounts in municipal taxes, public transport, and television fee were cancelled for new recipients. Discounts in payments for visits to physicians were cancelled, and the level of rent assistance for all recipients was also reduced.50
Issue 20: Revocation of Residency Rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians
Please describe the impact of the revocation of residency rights of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem on their right to social services.
The Israeli law authorizes the Interior Ministry to revoke the permit of a resident (native or immigrant) who left the country for a period of seven years or more, or who acquired citizenship or permanent license in another country, and thus had supposedly severed ties with Israel. The majority of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are permanent residents of Israel, and the ongoing policy of revocation greatly infringes on the basic human rights of tens of thousands who wish to leave Jerusalem for studies, work or marital purposes. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in revocation of residency, and 2008 set a record with 4,577 revocations. Almost one half of the total revocations of permits since the annexation of Jerusalem in 1967 occurred between the years 2006 to 2008. This sharp increase indicates a deliberate policy to reduce the number of Palestinians living in the city. The Interior Ministry regularly revokes residency permits without giving prior notice and without holding a hearing to allow for residents to make their argument. In this manner, residents discover only after the fact that they may no longer return to their indigenous.
In a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice, HaMoked (Center for the Defense of the Individual) and ACRI demanded that the Interior Ministry stop revoking permanent residency permits held by residents of East Jerusalem.51 The human rights organizations further requested that the law be amended to provide special protection clauses for those who reside in areas that were annexed by the State of Israel – today East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – so that they could leave and return at their own free will. The petitioners demand that the Entry into Israel Regulations be amended to stipulate that a visa and permit for permanent residency granted, following the annexation of a territory to the State of Israel, will not be revoked, even if a resident had left the country for prolonged periods of time or became a citizen of another country. Thus, a distinction would be made between immigrants who had acquired status in Israel for reasons such as marriage to an Israeli citizen, who would still be required to continuously prove that their center of life is here, and between residents of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights who would be allowed to leave and return at their own will, as is acceptable among citizens who are never under threat of revocation of status.
The petition was submitted in the name of Mahmoud Qarae’en, a 26-year-old resident of Silwan in East Jerusalem. Qarae’en must conduct his life knowing that any choice which means leaving Jerusalem for a protracted period of time - be it for residential or familial reasons or for the purpose of studying or working - may eventually cost him his residency permit. Acquiring citizenship or other residential status in a foreign country would involve the same punishment, meaning the loss of status and with it the loss of the possibility to return to his family, home, city and birthplace.
To make matters worse, even a decision to relocate to an area near Jerusalem that is considered Occupied Territories by the Israeli authorities can be interpreted by the Interior Ministry as a step of immigration, as if the Jerusalem resident had intentionally left the country. Many Palestinians, and in particular women who marry West Bank residents, lose their status this way. They reside only a few miles from their place of birth, to which they may no longer return. The Interior Ministry is basing this policy on the 1988 High Court ruling in the ‘Awad case’, in which the justices ruled East Jerusalem residents may have their status revoked due to “transference of center-of-life”, as is the common approach toward foreigners who had acquired residency permits but later chose to leave the country.
It is crucial that Israel stops revoking the residency permits of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, and moreover quits denying them the right to return to their homes in order to achieve it's demographic goals.