Labor Platform: Socio-Economic Doctrine
The Labor Party sees the State as responsible for the safety and welfare of all Israeli citizens, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” (From the Declaration of Independence)
The Labor Party is a Zionist and social-democratic party. Therefore, at the base of its socio-economic platform is the obligation to establish an exemplary society in which the values upon which the State of Israel was founded – mutual responsibility, justice, and striving for equality – will be realized. The worldview guiding the Labor Party maintains that the key to reaching this goal lies in policy which encourages economic growth and entrepreneurship in the industrial-manufacturing sector on the one hand, and on the other provides an extensive social safety net to Israeli citizens from all walks of life.
The Labor Party sees the reduction in government responsibility over recent decades as a violation of the balance between market demands and public needs on which the idea of the welfare state is based and for which the party advocates. Therefore, alongside the existence of a flourishing free market, the Labor Party aspires to renew the model of the welfare state in a manner appropriate to the spirit of the times, to strengthen public services and to cease the processes of privatization. The purpose of these steps is to rehabilitate the notion of responsible governance and restore the state’s responsibility to its citizens.
The policies of the Israeli government over the previous thirty years have resulted in the extreme exacerbation of social inequality in a manner that has eroded the existence of the State of Israel and seriously harmed social cohesion.
In light of this, and as the beginning of a process of deep rehabilitation, the Labor Party will place as the primary goal of its socio-economic policy in the coming years a significant decrease in inequality in Israel. Meeting this goal will be critical for beginning a long-term process of rehabilitating Israeli society, a task of existential importance.
The following are the policy principles by which the Labor Party will work to fulfill these goals:
Exercise Israelis’ social rights
The Labor Party will put forward legislation for a new Basic Law of Social Rights, in which the State’s areas of responsibilities towards its citizens will be fully enshrined in law. At the same time extensive reforms to health, education, housing, welfare, transportation, and personal security services will be carried out in order to ensure the State provides a social safety net for all citizens.
Adjust the budget to the needs of Israeli society
For over a decade the government's budget has been subject to laws and constraints which significantly limit its ability to answer the needs of Israeli society.
The Labor Party will increase the budget and rehabilitate social services by increasing the allocation for public social spending to the accepted level in developed countries.
At the same time the Labor Party will determine the budget’s fiscal policy in a manner which will fulfill its responsibility to realize this socio-economic doctrine.
The Labor Party will change the tax policy from one that creates social inequality to one that decreases disparities by raising direct taxes on very high income earners and on strong corporations, while dealing with failed indirect taxation.
The Labor Party will cease the privatization of state infrastructure and social services and will examine policies which led to the mishandling of this issue.
Workers and the labor market
During recent decades the Israeli labor market has undergone major transformations. As a result, over half of Israel's poor citizens are people who wake up each day and go to work, yet remain unable to live in dignity. The Labor Party holds the position that changing the behavior patterns of the labor market is central to repairing Israeli society.
The Labor Party sees the working population as the foundation of Israeli society.
The Party will work to strengthen the working class and defend its rights.
The Labor Party will work to decrease unemployment in Israel and increase participation in the labor market.
The policies that the Party will advance in the name of these goals will be based upon the following principles:
The Labor Party will work towards erasing the phenomenon of the working poor – citizens unable to leave the cycle of poverty despite being employed. This will be accomplished by taking the following steps, among others:
Legislation to decrease wage gaps in the market:
- Linking the minimum wage to 55% of the average market wage (at a minimum).
- Creating a connection between the highest and lowest wage in a workplace. The maximum ratio of the lowest wage to the highest in a public company will be set at 50:1.
- Renewing the professional training system of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor as a central tool in the labor market, including launching a professional training system for youth
- Legislation to decrease wage gaps in the market:
- The Labor Party will work to increase the participation of populations excluded from the labor market (such as ultra-orthodox men, Arab women, and special-needs individuals).This aim will be achieved via direct investment aimed at opening industrial zones in Arab and ultra-orthodox towns, providing professional training to these populations and proving matching grants to employers for absorbing the new workers. These steps will be carried out throughout the country with an emphasis on the periphery and border communities.
- The Labor Party will gradually bring an end to the practice of indirect employment through subcontractors, manpower agencies and service providers in cooperation with labor unions and employers.
- The Labor Party will strengthen organized labor in Israel.
- The Labor Party will work to raise the number of inspectors responsible for enforcing labor laws in Israel and bring the accepted work standard in Israel up to the standards of developed countries in accordance with the criteria of the International Labor Organization and the OECD.
- The Labor Party will work to decrease the extent of gender inequality in the workplace by decreasing the wage gap between men and women and raising the participation of women in various ranks of the labor force, politics, the economy, and civil society.
- The Labor Party will work to ensure that issues connected to this field and to strengthening the working class and protecting workers' rights will have significant expression in educational curricula for middle school and high school students.
Secure pensions for everyone
The pension is a personal and familial insurance which constitutes the primary income source for people who left the workplace. The privatization of the pension system has damaged pension funds and has passed the majority of the risk onto the citizens who have lost the security of a pension fund that will provide for them a pleasant quality of life at retirement.
The Labor Party will strive to rehabilitate the economic security of retired Israeli citizens in two dimensions:
Dimension one – National Insurance benefits:
The Labor Party will work to increase the old-age benefits to 20% of the average wage.
The Labor Party supports ending discrimination between widows and widowers in payment of survivor's benefits. Today an income test is required for widowers, while widows are exempt.
Dimension two – pension funds:
- The Labor Party will demand that the basic pension level for the entire working population be guaranteed and increased by directing a more significant amount of the pension fund's investments in designated bonds issued by the State of Israel.
- The Labor Party supports the policy whereby as policyholders near the retirement age, their pension fund will be transferred into less risky investment tracks such as designated bonds issued by the State of Israel at a special interest rate.
- The Labor Party will work towards utilizing pension insurance for low-wage earners, and also towards applying the pension provision to all wage components by instituting a mandatory pension.
- The Labor Party will work towards increasing the enforcement of mandatory pensions and employment condition expansion directives relating to pension funds.
Retirees and senior citizens
Old age and retirement have become an extremely meaningful period in a person’s life around the world and specifically in Israel.
Over 10% of the population are senior citizens who have passed retirement age, a percentage which is likely to rise. Israel’s retirees include many Holocaust survivors and new immigrants, many of whom have not saved adequate pensions because they immigrated to Israel at a relatively advanced age.
Medicine’s success in significantly raising life expectancy has also brought new and unique challenges in a wide variety of fields. This includes the need to find ways in which society can ensure living in dignity, aging in dignity, an adequate leisure culture and appropriate health services for its seniors, as well as asking how the national economy can deal with the necessary costs of all of this.
The Labor Party sees Israel’s seniors as citizens who deserve respect, recognition for their many years of contribution to the society and the country, and most of all, an adequate quality of life in all aspects. Every human begin has the right to enjoy the fruit of his/her savings accumulated over years of work. The basic level of social security and old-age benefits must ensure a dignified existence for all seniors, and the government must raise the benefits and update them accordingly. The Labor Party will strive to fulfill these principles, and to find unique solutions which will allow new immigrants who were unable to save enough to meet the basic pension level to live at an adequate quality of life above that of old-age benefits.
The modern world offers the adult person better and more varied employment opportunities than ever. The Labor Party will advance government development of a plan with the purpose of allowing all retirees who wish to work to train themselves for various types of work that exist in the labor market befitting their talents.
Last year, tens of thousands of retirees found themselves in hopeless situations due to the expiration of their collective long-term care insurance policy. The Labor Party will work with the Treasury and other relevant entities to solve this problem and lengthen the insurance policies for retirees.
The Labor Party will work to formulate a detailed national plan for the senior population in Israel which will relate to all government entities, laws, rights, and relevant benefits for retirees, and will create an extensive roadmap in this field for the coming generations. The plan will answer the needs for nursing care, health services, pensions and benefits with dignity, personal security, leisure culture, and a clear and coherent list of rights, and provide a clear address for handling all of these areas.
The Labor Party is obligated to work in any way necessary in order to ensure Holocaust survivors live in dignity, welfare, and with their needs answered, including all that this implies.
Drastic reduction in poverty levels
The Labor Party will work to decrease the incidence and depth of poverty to an accepted level within the OECD through active policy in the workplace and in strengthening national social security.
Access to advanced, high-quality, and available health and medical services is a basic human right that must be ensured for every resident of the State of Israel. The phenomenon in which health and medicine, once considered a basic right, have become commercial products accessible only to those with means is a moral failure that may lead to the disintegration of the foundations of Israeli social cohesion.
Over the last decade there has been a consistent decrease in governmental funding of health services. Privatization and commercialization processes of the health system deepen and expand the existing disparities between the center and periphery of the country and the exclusion of various groups from their entitlement to health services.
One's health must not be dependent on income, skin color, religious or national affiliation, or place of residence. The health system must serve all residents of Israel because health is a basic right.
The Labor Party will strive to rehabilitate and strengthen Israel's public health system and, to this end, will advance the following measures:
- The Labor Party will strive to strengthen the position of the public health system as a high-quality system that provides state-of-the-art and appropriate health services to all residents of the country without regard to their income or age.
- The Labor Party will define the reduction of health disparities as a national mission and will emphasize that reaching this target is dependent not only on improving health services, but also improving socio-economic conditions that affect health.
- The Labor Party will work to fix the mechanism that updates funding sources for the health services basket that is the responsibility of the HMOs and the Ministry of Health, and to anchor it in law. This mechanism must include a full demographic calculation which takes into consideration population growth and aging, real price updates, and updates to the entire public services basket to include addition of new technologies and medications.
- The Labor Party will work to increase the range of services provided in the public health services basket under the responsibility of the HMOs. This larger basket will include hospitalization for long-term care, medical devices, and dental care.
- The Labor Party will work to decrease payments for health services included in the public basket.
- The Labor Party will work to increase the public sources of the health system and set them at 75% of the total funding sources of national health expenses. The methods for achieving these goals include increasing government funding, removal of the health tax ceiling, and making the tax more progressive.
The Labor Party will place an emphasis on public health and preventative medicine as a primary tool in strengthening national fortitude and decreasing inequality in health.
The party will return schoolchildren’s health services to the responsibility of the state and will work to determine a basic healthy products basket that should be accessible to every citizen.
- The Labor Party will work towards national planning and improving working conditions for medical and nursing professions out of the belief that medical human capital is the foundation stone of a functional society.
- The Labor Party sees supreme importance in preserving the human dignity of patients in medical services. Therefore, the Party will work in order to ensure that raising the quality of services provided to patients will be a goal in and of itself for the health system. This will be expressed in shorter waiting periods as much as possible for medical treatment, appropriate hospitalization conditions, and adequate attention from the medical and nursing staff.
Welfare and social security
A proper social security system and equal access to personal welfare services stand at the foundation of fair social policy.
The social security system’s job is to ensure a safety net that provides a minimal level of dignified existence for all citizens, with an emphasis towards those living in poverty and cannot work or make a living for an extended time, and to ensure preservation of the quality of life of those who worked and have left the workplace after giving birth or being laid off or due to sickness, disability, or old age.
The role of the personal welfare service is to assist the weakest citizens in dealing in a dignified manner with the difficulties they have encountered during their lifetime.
During the last decade the social security system and personal welfare services have been cut drastically. The level of most benefits is very low compared to accepted OECD levels, as is the accessibility to those benefits. As a result, the ability of these systems to achieve most of their goals is significantly hampered.
The Labor Party will strive to rehabilitate the social security system and personal welfare services in order to ensure dignified living for the population requiring their services and to this end will advance the following measures:
- Lengthen maternity leave to 16 weeks
- Guaranteed income as an incentive to work
- Progressive funding for social welfare services at the local authority level
- Remove fees for social welfare services
- Expand and develop the national program for at-risk children and teenagers
- Directly employ social workers in the public sector
- Increasing the budget and number of internships available for training specialist psychologists
As a result of the many years of neglect and fundamentally wrong priorities, the Israeli transportation system is far from satisfactory. Every day passengers spend long hours waiting in traffic jams, wasting time and fuel and heavily polluting the air, at a high cost to the economy and citizens.
At the same time, the neglect and privatization policy have brought the public transportation system to the brink of collapse. The number of users steadily decreases each year, and it is far from being an alternative to owning a private vehicle. Despite the steep rise in fuel prices in Israel and throughout the world in recent years, Israelis’ dependence on private vehicles is only increasing.
The Labor Party will work to adopt progressive transportation policy which will focus on improving personal mobility and allow easy accessibility to services in both urban and rural areas, as well as between them. This policy will be based on developing the public transportation system in Israel and adapting it to the 21st century in a manner that will ensure it is reliable, efficient, affordable, fast, and accessible to all.
The Labor Party will work to improve bus service by designating public transportation lanes and enforcing their use by deploying a high-capacity bus network in the main traffic arteries of the major cities. In addition, the Party will support upgrading bus stations and installing state-of-the-art information systems which will be used by the passengers, at no cost, at the stations and on national hotlines. The Labor Party will advance the provision of public transportation services offered at a symbolic cost only in large metropolitan areas, in order to encourage use of public transportation over private vehicles.
The Labor Party will work towards paving bike lanes in all urban communities in Israel while linking them to nearby communities and developing initiatives for bicycle rentals. In addition, the Party will work to encourage pedestrianism through intelligent development of urban infrastructure.
The Labor Party will strive to advance government responsibility for public transportation and cease the privatization trend in all transportation arenas in Israel.
Lowering the cost of living
The Labor Party will work towards a significant decrease in the cost of living with the goal of ensuring meeting the basic needs of all citizens of the State at affordable prices.
Living in dignity
The Labor Party will work towards the rehabilitation of the social security system in order to ensure that the population requiring its services lives in dignity.
Right to housing
A roof over one’s head is the basic element in any human being’s feeling of existential security and his/her ability to establish a household and family. Therefore, adequate affordable housing is a basic human right that the State is required to defend as part of its responsibility towards its citizens.
Despite this, the State of Israel has in recent years acted consistently and continuously to dismantle the tools at its disposal to exercise these rights of its citizens for adequate housing. This has led to the privatization of publicly-owned land and the government planning and innovation systems, as well as a dried up public housing system, a rise in housing prices by tens of percentage points and a significant increase in the housing burden, measured as a percentage of housing expenses out of total income: the lower a household’s socio-economic decile, the higher its housing burden. Therefore, the majority of people suffering from the housing burden are the middle, lower-middle, and lower classes.
The Labor Party will strive to exercise housing rights by enacting the following measures:
- Compensation for the current lack of public housing through construction, purchase grants, and rental assistance.
Significant involvement in the housing market that will lead to lower prices in in-demand areas for the middle class.
Acceleration in housing construction in in-demand regions will be obtained as follows:
- Providing incentives and creating a safety net for entrepreneurs which will allow them to sell housing at reasonable prices on the one hand, while also encouraging them to take upon themselves the initiative to build.
- A tax system that will incentivize fast construction and marketing in designated areas
- Government involvement in the rental housing market through legislation that will regulate the relationship between renter and landlord and will protect the rights of both sides.
- Urban renewal – significant development of urban centers meant to enable coping with the severe risk in case of an earthquake. This goal will be reached through creating tens of thousands of housing units within the cities without wasting the few land reserves left in the State of Israel.
- National-social land policy – the Labor Party is obligated to preserve the basic Zionist principle according to which lands in Israel are owned by the nation. Labor Party policy in this field will strive towards strict preservation of land reserves in Israel and their optimal utilization for the benefit of society.
Extensive reform in public service
The Labor Party will work to carry out extensive reform of the public service employment model with the purpose of improving and streamlining services provided by this sector to the public. The reform will focus on encouraging and rewarding excellence, upgrading human resources, revitalizing management and by providing flexibility to administrative position-holders in public service. The Party will implement reforms in cooperation with the representative unions.
The Labor Party will work to democratize the budgeting process. This goal will be achieved by eliminating the bi-annual budget, effectively limiting the Arrangements Law and decentralizing authority for managing the budget to include all government offices.
Striving for economic equality between the sexes
The Labor Party will strive to diminish gender inequality, emphasize reduction of wage gaps between men and women and increase women’s participation in the various ranks of the labor force, and in Israeli political, economic, and civil life.
Regulation of capital markets
The existence of a developed capital market conducted according to business standards and proper ethics is a precondition for a prosperous Israeli economy. In recent years, there has been a notable deterioration in behavioral norms that characterize the Israeli capital market with increasing damage to savers, investors, and workers.
The Labor Party will work to increase public regulation of capital markets – particularly for controlling owners – in order to ensure proper behavior, an increase in market efficiency, and a more just distribution of resources.
This goal will be achieved by the following steps, among others:
- Limiting the ability for controlling owners and senior executives to make use of public companies’ resources for paying inflated wages to executives. This includes limiting executive salaries at public companies in relation to the condition of the company’s business and employee salaries at the companies.
- Implementing the recommendations of the Competitiveness Committee regarding separating control of financial and real assets and reducing centralization in the allocation of public assets.
- Strengthening safeguards for the public from transactions tainted by conflicts of interest between public companies and controlling owners and their associates.
- Prohibiting distribution of dividends in companies whose financial situations are not strong enough, with the goal of serving the short-term interest of the controlling owner.
- Increasing the obligation of institutional bodies to represent the savers and colleagues against the interests of controlling owners and executives of public companies.
- Increasing the obligations of public companies’ directors as well as regulation of their conduct.
- Regulating the personal responsibility of controlling owners towards creditors in debt settlements.
- Ensuring the independence of regulators in the capital market against public companies that rely on their services.
Israeli industry faces significant challenges in both the national and international arenas.
At the international level, particularly since the economic crisis of 2008, the export industry has been dealing with a decrease in world demand and an increase in the use of customs duties to protect local industries. These trends have been added to the trends that preceded the crisis: competition with cheap labor in the East and low productivity per worker, which has been a traditional characteristic of Israel's industries in comparison to parallel industries in developed countries.
In the national arena, Israel’s industries are characterized by the duality that reflects the national labor market as a whole. On the one hand, workers in the flourishing high-tech industry, primarily in the center of the country, are benefitting from suitable education for their careers, high salaries and increasing mobility in the labor market. On the other hand, more traditional industry, primarily located in the periphery, is characterized in general by lower wages and a greater number of unskilled workers.
In light of all this, the Labor Party will advance policy that will provide an integrated answer to national and international challenges which Israel’s industries are facing. This policy will strive to strengthen local industry against increasing international competition on the one on hand, and help new populations to integrate into elite Israeli industries on the other.
These goals will be achieved through the following steps:
- Strengthening the comparative advantages of local industries competing in the international market.
- Increasing worker productivity at all levels of industry via comparisons with accepted levels in developed countries by raising the budget of the Office of the Chief Scientist for investing in industrial research and development, as well as professional training of skilled manpower.
- Placing a special emphasis on rehabilitation and development of technological education, adjusted to the needs of modern advanced industries.
- Distributing various industries throughout the country in more equal manner, and in particular incentivizing and encouraging high-tech industries towards increased activity in the social and geographic periphery of Israel.
- Conducting active policy to integrate the ultra-orthodox, Arab, and other minority populations into Israel’s industries and removing the obstructions that stand before them today.
- Conducting careful customs policy which balances between consumer needs and the need to protect jobs and the competitiveness of local industries.
Small and medium businesses and the self-employed
The Labor Party sees small and medium businesses and the self-employed (most if not all of whom belong to the small and medium business sector) as a critically important layer of the Israeli economy and a primary source of social strength. This sector today amounts to approximately 200,000 people who employ only themselves, and, approximately, an additional 200,000 who employ other workers in their business.
The self-employed group includes professionals, entrepreneurs, owners of businesses in the process of being established, as well as an entire sub-sector of self-employed individuals who are dependent for their living on a single and powerful employer who hires their services (on occasion this is the government itself).
Israeli legislation, which was based on recognizing the value of labor, focused on protecting only hired workers while ignoring the self-employed who chose both the opportunity and the risk of being independent of an employer, and are therefore in need of a social safety net.
In today’s world, where work patterns change rapidly, the number of self-employed individuals is growing, as is their importance both in the legal arena and in social reality. In light of this, the Labor Party believes that there is a place for legislating safeguards for this sector.
The Labor Party will advance legislation that will express the high value that it attributes to self-employed work.
This will include the following principles, amongst others:
- Enacting the Small and Medium Business Law, which will provide an answer to all the issues touching on this sector, as accepted in most advanced countries.
- Amending the National Insurance Law to include self-employed individuals in the unemployment and bankruptcy insurance sections.
- Equalizing the conditions of a hired worker and a self-employed worker by adjusting the Income Tax Ordinance.
- Amending the Restrictive Trade Practices Law to exclude business activity in industries with minimal demand.
- Enacting the Free Participant Law which is intended to regulate treatment of financially-dependent self-employed workers.
- Designating 25% of all government tenders for small and medium businesses.
- Increasing access to non-bank credit by developing incentives and financial mechanisms that will enable institutions to invest, on credit, in small business.
- Establishing credit funds budgeted by the government and private sector in cooperation for investment in small business.
- Increasing the small and medium business assistance fund.
- Increasing the consultation and planning framework for small and medium businesses and the self-employed through extensive deployment of training centers on the topics of marketing, funding, logistics, and more. This will be done through raising assistance and improving access to these frameworks in remote communities, including in the Arab sector.
- Advancing small businesses’ access to credit by increasing the existing data reserves about credit demand, rating banks according to their degree of support for small businesses, providing credit ratings for small businesses and increasing account holder’s access to detailed documentation on their credit history with the goal of equipping them with reliable assessments of their condition.
The Labor Party will work to reduce disparities between the periphery and center of Israel in order to fulfill the values of equality and mutual responsibility amongst its citizens, with the recognition that life in the periphery is the practical realization of the Zionist vision. The Party will strive to raise the quality of life in the periphery so that it will consistently rise along with that in the center in order to strengthen its residents and encourage positive migration towards it.
The Labor Party will work to achieve these goals through the following measures:
- Promoting the development of public and regional transportation to connect the periphery to the center.
- Promoting government assistance in creating a variety of rewarding workplaces in the periphery.
- Promoting the accessibility of quality health services in the periphery.
- Striving towards creating high quality education, particularly in the periphery, that will afford equal opportunity to all boys and girls.
- Strengthening culture in the periphery by developing and investing in local creativity.
- Creating conditions that will encourage residents of the periphery to stay in their communities and will promote population movement from the center to the periphery.
- Allocating grants to workers in public jobs in the periphery and providing incentives for industry working in the periphery.
This policy will be implemented while strengthening ties between the national government and local authorities in the periphery and increasing responsibility over them.