Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5766 - May 3, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
No Correlation Between Level of Child Allowances and Number of Children

by Rabbi Yitzchok Roth

There is a common belief, especially among those who hate chareidim, that there is a correlation between the level of child support allowances and the size of families, and the more allowances are reduced the more the number of children per family will shrink — as if people had children in order to get the allowance.

In Ha'aretz some years ago reporter R. Sinai brought several facts about the connection between the monetary amount of the allowances and the size of families. According to the figures she presents the proportion of large families in the State of Israel has been in constant decline despite the increase in allowances up to a few years ago.

In the 1980s large families constituted 7 percent of all families with children while today that figure has dropped to 4.3 percent. The proportion of families with seven or more children is only 2 percent of the total number of families with children, and the number of families with more than 10 children is tiny.

Dr. Johnny Gal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem maintains that according to studies around the world there is no correlation between the amount of allowances and the size of the families. He says the allowances bring many families above the poverty line and reducing them merely exacerbates poverty without shrinking families.

"If we judge specifically based on the Jews' historical experience," says Professor Moshe Lisk, also of Hebrew University, "among the traditional Jews of Eastern Europe there was a demographic explosion during the 19th century that eventually led to mass emigration. Although they were very poor there was no tie between their financial status and the size of families and . . . reducing allowances will [not] alter this situation here."

And how does the State of Israel rank in providing aid to large families when compared to other Western nations? Is it true the State of Israel is unusually lavish in subsidizing these families?

A comparative survey conducted by Dr. Gal and by Dr. Ben Aryeh, also of Hebrew University, showed that compared to other industrialized nations Israel's commitments were fairly limited. The survey, done even before the wave of decrees over the past three years, found that the support for children in other countries is far more generous and included incentives for mothers to go to work, housing assistance, etc. The concrete figures from the survey debunk the myth promulgated by anti-religious officials that Israel far exceeds other Western nations in the assistance it extends to large families.

Dr. Yonah Sachelkans, a demographer at Hebrew University, also determined there is no correlation between the size of families and the level of government support. "Many studies have been done around the world and almost all of them showed the effect is marginal," he says.

Dr. Lisk says the demographic question highlights the contradiction contained in remarks made by Netanyahu and many others who share his views. "On one hand they speak of Jewish values, of the need to settle Eretz Yisroel, of the importance of the continuation of Am Yisroel, while on the other hand they battle against large families. This doesn't make sense."

But it does make sense. A lot of sense. As MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said, the battle is against the chareidim: "The State is not opposed to children. It is opposed to chareidi children. A large percentage of the population agrees with this attitude."

Government officials are not battling against large families in general, but rather against large chareidi families (and maybe large Israeli Arab families as well). In order to reduce the effect of chareidi growth on the country's demographic balance, hundreds of thousands of non-Jews were brought from the former Soviet Union. Also to undermine the ability of chareidi families to subsist, draconian decrees that have nothing to do with economics were issued. From a purely economic perspective impairing chareidi families' economic viability will merely boomerang, lowering state revenue and in the long run will be of no use to the economy.

As part of its economic plan the previous government allocated millions to implement a "special national program to encourage aliya and absorption." Thus the government combated internal aliya, which is certain and effective, while preparing a plan that may not in the end bring very many Jews to Eretz Yisroel.

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