Not Retiring

The reality is that equating retirement age for women to that of men is not an act of equality, but of inequality, a move that harms women and worsens the already unequal conditions.

Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli
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Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli

Let us hope that those who support raising the retirement age for women are right; that the many MKs who voted for the bill sponsored by Dalia Itzik and Zahava Gal-On against raising the bar were doing so in order to be rewarded by women voters in the next election. I wish it was true, because if it is, it means that for the first time in our history women were finally perceived as voters whose views and priorities merit attention from elected officials. Women themselves should take notice: If we count all of a sudden, we should use this to obtain equality, a thing that will benefit all of society.

And there's nothing you can do about it - the reality is that equating retirement age for women to that of men is not an act of equality, but of inequality, a move that harms women and worsens the already unequal conditions. Of all the arguments put forward to stress the point, there's one that has hardly been mentioned: the huge amounts of full-time work women do in the household and in raising children. Women don't get paid for this work, it doesn't count toward a pension and is not even recognized as interchangeable with the money the man brings from his paid work. He is considered the breadwinner, while she is considered someone he "supports."

Since 1878, when the Association for the Advancement of Women first demanded that the work women do around the house be included in the official statistics, and right up until 2009, when the treasury pushed through a law that effectively canceled the recognition of child treatment for tax purposes (the Vered Perry verdict, upheld by the Supreme Court ), the establishment has been burying the issue as deep as it possibly can, because of its high "cost" to the economy. Calculating that cost reveals the hypocrisy and exploitation in the position of the male establishment represented by the treasury.

After the Perry verdict the Tax Authority announced that the annual cost of recognizing caretaker payments for tax purposes would be about NIS 3 billion. In other words, women do work worth at least three billion shekels every year, unpaid and without any of the benefits of paid work, such as a pension.

This sum is obviously a very partial estimate, including as it does only raising children and not household work. A partial calculation done in Canada in 1998 showed that a woman invests 72 percent more time than the man into the unpaid work of raising their children - and this, again, is without the household work. The total paid and unpaid work done by women is estimated by the same study to be higher than all the work men do by five weeks of full-time work a year.

In other words, any work a woman does outside the house that's calculated for pension purposes should be added to the full-time job she's already working in inside the home. As a result, not only is the woman's paid work shrunk by the presence of her other job of taking care of the children, going on birth "leave" and missing working days to attend to sick children - but this unpaid job also shrinks the pension she deserves.

Despite all the changes brought about by the feminist revolution and the entry of women into the public arena, the work women do at home and in raising children remained semi-transparent. Economically, it's still not counted. And so long as it's not counted, it's as if it doesn't exist, and it's impossible to estimate its worth and consider remuneration. Of course, merely quantifying and pricing these jobs alone will not lead to their equitable distribution between women and men, but at least it will be clear what should be divided.

It is obvious why the establishment denies the economic worth of women's work: A society controled by men enjoys it. But why do women comply with it? How did women fail to flood the court with demands to recognize the child-raising expenses after the Perry verdict? If women become an electoral power, we may be able to produce the political will necessary for this much-needed change. Meanwhile, instead of babbling about pension age "equality," notice that women not only don't get a pension for all the work they do at home, but also that they never actually retire.



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