The Employment Situation of Income Support Benefit Recipients Resources, Barriers and Needs for Assistance in Becoming Integrated into Employment

One of the populations most significantly affected by the emergency economic programs of the Government of Israel is income-support benefit recipients. These families also comprise the target population for an experimental reform in the services provided to the non-employed, slated for implementation during 2004. Against this backdrop, this report on the employment situation and potential of income-support benefit recipients is of special interest.

The report is the first in a series examining the situation of families that receive the income-support benefit in various areas of life. It is based on a comprehensive study jointly conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute and the National Insurance Institute. The study utilized a national sample of 932 families receiving the benefit at the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000 in which the head of the family was of working age. This is a heterogeneous population: It comprises people possessing resources, and people with health limitations that impede integration into employment. The present report portrays a comprehensive picture of the resources available to the recipients for the purpose of employment integration, their motivation to work, and the barriers they face. The following are some of the principal findings:

  • Unlike the prevailing public image, a considerable proportion of the benefit recipients (i.e., the claimants and their spouses) have an employment history: 24% were employed at the time of the interview and received income support due to their low wages; 27% had had a steady job during the previous five years; and 23% had had a steady job five years or more prior to the interview.
  • Almost one-quarter of those who were not employed at the time of the interview had lost their job due to the recent economic downturn, especially in construction and manufacturing. Those who had never been employed were primarily women (especially Arab women) and young people who had yet to join the job market.
  • Almost one-half of the beneficiaries who were not employed (including some of those who, according to the Income Support Law at the time, were not required to seek work, such as women with children under seven) were either actively seeking work or expressed an interest in assistamce in finding work.
  • The non-employed benefit recipients faced barriers to their integration into employment: About one-half reported health problems or disabilities that interfered with their daily functioning – mainly chronic diseases such as a heart condition, or severe back or leg problems. More than one-half had less than 12 years of study; almost one-half lacked a vocation; about one-third had no work experience; and about one-quarter had difficulties with work habits. Forty percent of the women had at least one child below the age of seven, and 25% had at least one child under three.
  • The non-employed benefit recipients reported a need for various forms of assistance critical to their integration into employment, including making initial contact with an employer (37%), professional guidance and counseling (15%), supplemental education (12%), vocational training (33%), financial assistance for child day care (33%), and transportation or financial assistance for transportation to and from work (10%).

The study findings indicate that a variety of solutions are required to overcome the barriers of the heterogeneous population of income support recipients and promote their integration into employment.The findings of the study were extensively utilized by the Tamir commission, which formulated the recommendations for the experimental reform in the policy regarding income support recipients. This report is an important resource for planning the experiment, which aims to help integrate income-support benefit recipients with employment potential into the job market.