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Israel Cannot Afford to Cut Benefits for Children

Cutting already-low child benefits in Israel under the pretext of equal sharing of the economic burden is liable to cause irreparable damage, warns Idan Grinbaum.  
Children wearing costumes for the Jewish holiday of Purim wait to get out of a car in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood February 25, 2013. Purim is a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther.    REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION) - RTR3E9X6

Seven billion shekels [nearly $1.9 billion] — that’s a figure you should bear in mind. This is the sum expended by the State of Israel in 2012 on child benefits granted to over one million families or a total of some 2.5 million children (according to updated data released by the National Insurance Institute of Israel, the number of families who received child benefits in 2011 was 1,048,000). Had the Treasury had its way, child benefits would have been slashed by at least half. As a matter of fact, this is precisely what the Finance Ministry officials have already rushed to recommend in the framework of the plan for deep budget cuts awaiting submission to the next government.

In the Finance Ministry they have it all laid out. They argue that the allowance per child should be the same for each child in the family, no matter what the number of children. And this, contrary to the situation prevailing since the coalition agreements of 2009, according to which the allowance per child increases up to the fourth child and then decreases to some extent and remains constant for all the other children in a family. In this article we will try to explain why any cut in child benefits, even the slightest cut, is liable to be destructive; and apropos, we will attempt to shatter some myths concerning the concept of child benefits.

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