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The public committee reviewing the retirement age for women has yet to officially release its recommendations, but it plans to recommend raising this age from 62 to 67 and not to 64 as originally planned.

The proposal has met with heavy opposition in the Knesset, in academia and from women's organizations.

There is widespread opposition among Knesset members to the change, which must be approved by the plenum. MKs from parties including Likud, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima have already said they will oppose the measure. Senior coalition members say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attempt to force members of his governing coalition to vote for the hike in the retirement age for woman.

Interior Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai said yesterday that his party would oppose the change. "A unilateral hike would cause social conflict and unnecessary harm to women," he said.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, who heads the ministerial committee for advancing the status of women, said she will take action to block the change. She said women's organization's were not properly represented on the public committee. She also claimed the body exceeded its authority in recommending that the age be set above 64, and also said its recommendation was based on economic factors alone.

As to the claim that raising the retirement age would allow women to save more for their pensions, Livnat said that was true only for the minority of women who hold senior positions. She said most women do difficult work and tend to retire before the official retirement age. In their case, she said, raising the retirement age would reduce their pensions and also mean earning less for more years before retirement.

The head of the opposition, MK Tzipi Livni, also objects to the proposal. She said her party, Kadima, will oppose the change.

Selective equality

The only female MK who has expressed support for the measure is Einat Wilf (Atzmaut ). "There is no doubt that over time we must reach a situation where the retirement age for men and women is the same, and there is no longer a mandatory retirement age but only voluntary," said Wilf.

Also supporting the change is the president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lynn. He called the change "positive" and "unavoidable" in light of the need to preserve the stability of pension funds and future social-welfare policy. But Lynn recommended that women should be able to retire at 64 if they wish.

Talia Livni, president of the Na'amat women's organization, quit the public committee earlier this week after the issue turned to raising the age to 67 instead of the original 64 when the the committee was appointed. A representative of the Histadrut labor federation also quit the committee over the issue.

Livni said the committee did not even consider the problems of older women in the workforce. "There is an employment problem for older women and they are the first to be fired. If we raise the retirement age and they are fired, they will remain with a reduced pension and be forced to rely on the National Insurance Institute old-age allowance," she said. "Women work in professions such as daycare, nursing, and similar jobs, and who has the strength to continue to work until age 67?" she said. Women make up 70% of those who earn minimum wage, and on top of that most have housework to do, said Livni. "Has anyone thought about them?"