Very quietly, without anybody particularly noticing, the Knesset Finance Committee decided last week to bury the proposal to raise the retirement age for women, once and for all.
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While we were all preoccupied with the political battle over public broadcasting and the threat of early elections, the committee decided that the retirement age for women will not be raised, unless they explicitly agree. Since there is a large majority on the committee against raising women’s retirement age, that’s that, even though the finance minister never did express his opinion on the matter: Populism, and fear of the tongues of some female Knesset members, reduced Moshe Kahlon to paralysis.
Thirteen years ago, in 2004, the government decided to raise the retirement age for men to 67, and for women to 64. The plan for men was executed, but for women it was not. The retirement age for women was lifted slightly, to 62, because of certain female MKs – who talk the talk about equality between men and women, but when it comes to discrimination against men, they’re in favor.
Their position is both wrong and immoral, and if anything, it’s bad for women. But Shelly Yacimovich, Zehava Galon, Merav Michaeli and Orli Levi-Abekasis care only that the public believes, even if wrongly, that they are out there landing blows for women. Even if opposite is true.
These MKs talk learnedly about wage gaps between men and women, but the fact is that one of the reasons for this is the failure to raise the retirement age for women. The moment an employer knows a woman can retire at 62, he won’t promote her to quality management positions from around age 55; and if cutbacks loom, the 62-year-old women will be first to go, because he knows they’re already entitled to pensions and old-age stipends, while men that age are not.
The result is that a woman retiring at 62 retires with a relatively smaller accrued pension, because she worked for fewer years. Women also live longer, until 84 on average. If a woman retires at 62, whatever capital she accrued will be spread over 22 years, often dooming her to poverty, courtesy of these “good” MKs. A man, on the other hand, works five years longer and lives to an average of 80, so his pension is higher – and then women complain about "discrimination."
There are no free lunches in economics. When one group gets more than it deserves, the other group pays for it. Indeed, men subsidize women in National Insurance. They also subsidize women in budgetary pensions (paid by the state, without the worker setting aside money over the years) and veteran pension funds. But the men stay silent. They have no lobby in the Knesset.
An international comparison finds that throughout the West, men and women now retire at the same age. The only countries that discriminate, like Israel, are the Czech Republic and Chile. Also, the retirement age in Israel for men is older than the average in the West, while the retirement age for women is among the youngest. The direction in which correction is due is clear.
Every professional committee that studied the issue agreed that the retirement age for women should be raised, for their own good. A committee headed by Udi Nissan advocated equating their retirement age to that of men, 67; among those supporting the move were Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug and Esther Dominissini, former director general of the National Insurance Institute. Another committee, headed by Amir Levy, recently proposed that the retirement age for women rises to 64 at first and later to 67.
A study by the Bank of Israel found that raising the retirement age of women from 60 to 62 (which was done in 2004) did nothing but good for women, and brought a respectable increase in the number of elderly women in the workforce.
But these rational explanations won’t help. Yacimovich, Galon, Michaeli and Levi-Abekasis do not care what the real state of women is. They only care about image, even if the image is a lie. And when the one standing against them is Kahlon, who just wants to be left in peace, the result is that the lie and populism win the day.