שדולת הנשים - The Parent Trap: Israel’s Early Childhood

The Parent Trap: Israel's Early Childhood Education and Care Policy

 In recent years, many countries have adopted new policies aimed to raise the participation of women in the workforce and to reduce the gender wage gap. Many of these policies are based on the understanding that the uneven distribution of housework and childcare between men and women in the household is a major setback for working women, and that the quality of early childhood education and care is key in reconciling work and family responsibilities that is more equitable for women.

 This report sets to analyze Israel’s current early childhood education and care policy and offer insights regarding the desirable policy in this field. 
 
Comparing Israel's young children's care and education policy with the policies of other countries, raises some disturbing insights: while the country actively encourages child rearing, it evades many of its responsibilities for these children after they are born.
 
 In comparison with other countries, Israel invests very little in her youngest children, with the average public expenditure per child (aging 0-6 years) at half of the OECD average.  The case is even worse for children aged 0-3 years, for which there is no formal care and education system at all, and for which the public expenditure counts for only 20% of the total expenditure on education and care services.
 
The public investment in young children is a feminist issue, both because of its effect on social disparities in general and its specific effect on the status of women in the workforce.
 
Main Findings:
 
-          Israel has the highest birthrate among all OECD countries, and it invests an unusually high amount of public resources to maintain it. Israel has a birthrate of 3.1 children per women, compared to a 1.7 OECD
.average, higher even than the birthrate in India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

-          2% of the all the babies born each year as a result of IVF treatment are born in Israel, a rate 20 times higher than Israel’s share in the global population.

-          The total expenditure on births - IVF treatments combined with birth-related benefits, is  estimated at 7.1 billion NIS a year.

-          Despite the high public investment in childbearing, the investment in children is amongst the lowest in the developed world. The public expenditure per child, aged 0-6 years, is about 8,000 NIS a year, less than half of the average OECD public expenditure of about 16,500 NIS a year.

-          Israel has around 550,000 children below the age of 3. 77% of these children do not attend formal childcare, and the government has no information concerning their whereabouts while their parents are at work.

-          80% of the total expenditure on education and childcare for children under the age of 3, is privately funded by parents. Parents to children that age spent a total of 3.4 billion dollars a year, each paying between 1,800 to 3,500 NIS a month for childcare, and even more.
 
-          There are no professional requirements from After-Hours-Care (“Tzaharon”) staff, and no
formal training.

-          There is an overall shortage of quality early childhood education and care workers.

-          The “Long School Day” bill, legislated 20 years ago, has never been fully implemented. Even in the schools that do work for longer hours, these hours are not sufficient in answering the needs of working parents, as a school day usually ends between 14:15 to 14:45.
 
-          Israel has the second-highest gap between parent’s paid leave days and school leave days. The majority of this gap is due to the fact that Israel’s workers are entitled to only 12 days of paid leave a year, compared to an OECD average of 20.5 days a year.
 
-          In addition to describing and analyzing Israel’s early childhood care and education policy, this report looks to learn from the examples of three other countries: France, Holland and Sweden. All three of these countries provide wide publicly funded daycare for young children, including the option of long days provided for working parents.
 
 
For additional information please contact Ya'ara Mann, avoda@iwn.org.il

For the complete booklet in Hebrew, please download

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