The economic repercussions of the handling of the coronavirus have been devastating worldwide.
The Israeli Employment Service reported on July 9 that the unemployment rate stood at around 21% – a huge jump from the 3% before the pandemic struck.
In Israel, the situation has worsened rather than improved. Despite the promises by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to provide an “economic corona kit,” many of the protesters said they had not received compensation for business lost during the first lockdown and the halt in the tourism industry, and now there has been a second wave of closures.
In many cases – such as bars, gyms, theaters and other leisure and cultural activities – the blow has been a double one. When businesses reopened after months of no income, owners spent large sums of money to make the premises compliant with stringent coronavirus prevention regulations. Before they could begin to recoup that added expense, they were closed again.
Similarly, the plight of the self-employed is not new. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, there was a movement of self-employed in Israel who protested that although they had contributed mandatory National Insurance Institute payments every month like other citizens, they were not covered for basic social welfare needs, such as during sickness, the week of sitting shiva following a bereavement, or unemployment if the business failed and had to close.
Last Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz unveiled an NIS 80 billion national rescue plan aimed at helping the one million unemployed citizens and ensuring that the middle and poorer classes will not collapse under the current financial hardships.