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Ministers push plan for more paid paternity leave to reduce wage gap

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Transportation Minsiter Merav Michaeli say move is aimed at improving equality in the workforce

Illustrative: Father holding his baby girl at home. (Wavebreakmedia; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative: Father holding his baby girl at home. (Wavebreakmedia; iStock by Getty Images)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli announced Wednesday that the next state budget will include an expanded plan for paid paternity leave, in an effort to close the wage gap between men and women.

Under the proposed plan, fathers will be able to go on paid paternity leave 15 weeks after the birth, and will be entitled to at least two weeks of full pay, provided by the government, on the condition that the mother returns to work at the same time.

Currently, the law allows fathers just one week of paid paternity leave immediately after a child’s birth, and the vast majority of new fathers take it.

A final plan for paternity leave will be agreed upon by the time the budget is submitted to the government on June 16, the ministers said in a joint statement, assuming the teetering coalition lasts that long.

According to Liberman, allowing men and women equal rights regarding paternity leave will “limit the negative incentive” of hiring mothers, as it will place equal responsibility for caring for newborns at the expense of work on both mothers and fathers.

According to a study conducted by the Finance Ministry, the wages of first-time mothers drop by 30% when they eventually return to work, primarily due to their hours being cut back. Even a decade after giving birth, mothers’ wages are around 28% lower compared to fathers’.

One of the study’s explicit recommendations was to provide fathers with equal paternity leave conditions as a potential solution for closing wage gaps in the long term.

At a press conference to unveil the plan, Liberman said that closing the wage gap between men and women is “a cornerstone” of the coming budget and that the changes would help to reduce the “negative incentive to employ mothers.”

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, left, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at a press conference about paternity leave for men, at the Finance Minister in Jerusalem, May 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Michaeli, a stout feminist who has advocated for women’s rights throughout her political career, said the new plan is the result of a vision she has been fighting for for 20 years.

“It is rare that one thing, one change, can have an influence on many fronts at the same time,” said Michaeli, the leader of the Labor party, which has long placed the campaign for equal rights high on its agenda.

“The campaign for equality is happening on many fronts all the time,” Michaeli said.

“Paternity leaves for fathers is exactly that kind of change,” she added, noting that during paternity leaves “the bond between the parent and child strengthens, and gender roles are consolidated.”

The move would also give fathers “the right to active parenting and a close connection between the father and baby,” the ministers said.

Illustrative. Parents hold their newborn child at St. Johns Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, May 21, 2004. (Kyle Ericson/AP/File)

Fathers’ wages will be calculated in the same way as mothers are, based on the highest-earning ten months of the 14 months before they stop working, or 15 out of the previous 22 months.

Women are entitled to 15 weeks of full salary, during which period the father can replace the mother for nine weeks, though she must return to work. Only one percent of fathers exercise that right, the statement said.

The coming budget, if approved, will come into effect in 2023.

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