Saturday is International Women’s Day, making today the least appropriate time to write a word of criticism of the women’s lobbies. Still, is there no men’s lobby to take up the banner of revolt and defend men when called for? Have women succeeded so well in emasculating men that none will utter a word even when the discrimination against them is so blatant?
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The issue is retirement age, which was widely covered this week in the media. The treasury proposed that the retirement age for women be raised from 62 to 64 and for men from 67 to 70. The Israel Women’s Network and several female MKs kicked up an uproar, but there was no one representing the men. No one shouted or even grumbled. No retirement until age 70? What’s the big deal? Let them work until age 80 and then die quietly, with no pension at all.
The height of the chutzpah was the argument that the retirement age for women mustn’t be raised because they work in “burnout professions” such as teaching and nursing. That’s the most ludicrous argument I’ve ever heard. So women are in “burnout” professions. And just where are the men, at Disney World? Who works in heavy industry for long hours amid noise and dust? Who is working shifts by the scorching-hot smelting oven at Urdan Metal and Casting? Who maintains the production lines at Dead Sea Works? Who are the porters hauling heavy loads on their backs? Who drives the heavy trucks down the steep, winding roads to Eilat? Who are the construction workers, the plumbers, the electricians? Who are the managers who work from morning to night under so much stress they risk collapsing with a heart attack? Now we’re told that it’s women who work in “burnout” professions? So men are just hanging out in coffee shops? The demagoguery knows no limits.
Just for information’s sake: Women teachers can retire at age 50 and receive a pension. Men teachers can only do so at age 55. And working alongside those women nurses and doctors are male nurses and doctors. The world has simply gone mad, and the truth has taken a long vacation. In terms of natural justice, too, the approach of the Israel Women’s Network is distorted. The average life expectancy for a woman in Israel is 84, so if she retires at 62, this means she’ll have 22 years of retirement. For a man, the average life expectancy is 80, so if he works until age 70 it means just 10 years of retirement. Isn’t this outrageous? In economics, you don’t get something for nothing. As soon as one group gets more than it deserves, the second group pays for it.
An international comparison shows that the retirement age for men in Israel is higher than the standard in Europe, but the retirement age for women is the lowest in the West. We’ve already had a professional committee look into the matter, and this committee had two distinguished women members: Karnit Flug, who is now the governor of the Bank of Israel, and Esther Dominici, who was the director of the National Insurance Institute at the time. The committee decided that the retirement age for both men and women should be 67, without fear or discrimination.
The committee also explained that the low retirement age for women actually does them a disservice. In the new pension funds, accrual is on an individual basis, so women who retire at 62 will receive a lower pension because they worked fewer years and have a longer life expectancy. So retirement at age 62 really means a life of poverty. Moreover, employers aren’t keen to promote women to senior positions once they hit age 55 or so, because they don’t want to invest in someone who can retire at 62 – so then men get the management positions and earn more, and women scream “discrimination!”
Women can do any job a man does. Sometimes they do it better. The fight for full equality for women in every sphere and in every workplace must continue. But the retirement age for women must also be raised – even if tomorrow is International Women’s Day.