Reduced child allowance benefits come into effect

Finance minister calls change a ‘historic transition’ into a ‘culture of work’

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children, April 2010 (photo credit: David Vaaknin/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children, April 2010 (photo credit: David Vaaknin/Flash90)

Wallets of parents were a little lighter Tuesday morning, after a plan to slash state child allowances went into effect amid criticism that it will make life harder for the poor.

The cuts to the child allowance, which will reduce payouts based on the number and ages of children, come as part of a package of austerity measures contained in the budget.

Under the new rules, families with children born after June 1, 2003, will receive a flat NIS 140 ($39) for each child. Under the old system, families with more children received slightly increased payments for each new child: for instance a family with three children born before June 2003 will receive NIS 420 ($117) under the new system, as compared to the NIS 701 ($196) they received before.

For children born before June 1, 2003, for the first two, the payment remains the same, NIS 140, but families with three children born before June 2003 will receive NIS 172 ($48) per child, families with four children will receive NIS 336 ($94) per child, and families with five or more older children will receive NIS 354 ($99) per child.

The reduced payments promise to especially affect the lifestyle of ultra-Orthodox citizens who have depended on the child allowance combined with yeshiva stipends (which have also been affected under the new budget) for the majority of their income.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri said the introduction of the reduced payments was “a sad day for Israel” and said that the change will “put tens of thousands of children into poverty.” A government with “no compassion for the weak” has no legitimacy, he added.

Labor head and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich also slammed the change, saying that the government should be focused on reducing poverty for the 870,000 poor children in Israel, not making things more difficult for them.

“Sixty-five percent of poor families are working families,” she said, noting that the new changes will cause an average family to lose NIS 2,000 ($559) a year.

The reduced payments were “one of our major election promises, and now it has come to fruition,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote Tuesday, following his established practice of posting on Facebook. He called the change a “historic transition” from a culture of having children to a “culture of work.”

The child allowances have been proven to “perpetuate poverty,” he said, not reduce it, adding that there is “only one thing that allows families to get out of poverty, and this is a job. When a person brings a child into this world, he is responsible for them… the state should not support them, and not even other parents.”

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