Israelis who have lost their jobs or were placed on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus pandemic may see their unemployment cheques cut substantially as the country approaches another general lockdown which is expected to further inflate the unemployment rate.
According to a report published on Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel's unemployment rate has dropped under 10% for the first time since the onset of the pandemic in the country.
As part of the government's rescue plan for the economy, the criteria for eligibility for unemployment benefits were greatly expanded and payments were extended until June 2021.
According to the plan, these conditions will remain in place as long as the country's unemployment rate does not drop under 10%, in which case, unemployment benefits will be offset automatically for those whose period of unemployment ended under ordinary unemployment law.
Since this is a government decision approved by Knesset, it cannot be immediately changed and many Israelis who are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits according to ordinary law will see their October cheque cut by 10%, or about NIS 450 ($150) on average.
Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli vowed to act in order to prevent the cut.
"Cutting unemployment compensation just before lockdown is an irresponsible move that will severely hurt hundreds of thousands of unemployed," said Shmuli. "Until the unemployment rate drops through investment in vocational training and incentive for employers to hire workers, we must not spare on the weak. I will demand that the finance minister and prime minister amend the decision so that, while encouraging employment, the safety net for Israeli citizens will not be damaged."