Unemployment in Israel, May 2006
In August 2005, steps were taken to implement the Wisconsin Program in Israel – known here as Me-ha-Lev “From the Heart.” Abroad this program is known as From Welfare to Work and signals a new stage in the privatisation of social services, with the aim of eliminating the welfare state. When the state is privatising the social services, it talks about the benefits and the money being saved. It never considers, what damage this does to people. In Israel, the Wisconsin plan runs as a pilot project in four centres, spread over the country. Those, who have prior the implementation of the Wisconsin Program received support by the Employment Bureaus, are now in the hand of private companies. The companies get incentive according to the amount of welfare allowances they have saved the state - that means the more allowances denied - the more money they get. Therefore, the physicians in charge do not accept medical documents they receive from participants. Ill people that suffer from diabetes, heart diseases, and other sickness are declared suitable for work, and are forced to attend the program. If a person is absents duo to sickness - his or her allowance is being denied at once. The Wisconsin plan is not suggesting any solution for couples with children that are forced to leave their children at home. A family income of 1400 shekels does not provide a possibility to hire a baby-sitter. The program is humiliating people, send them to courses that are not suitable for them; educated people are sent to beginners courses and people who are illiterates or can't speak Hebrew are sent to courses they can't understand. As long as the participant don't have a job, he must admit to the program's office were he is sent to courses and workshops or to what is called "community service". The "Community service" is volunteering work such as street cleaning, or other works giving by the municipality - nine hours a day without getting salary, but just the welfare allowances, which are far below minimum wage. In the photo series "Victims of the Wisconsin Program" , we show men and women, all the participants of the Wisconsin plan. All of them have stories about humiliation or exploitation they were exposed to. We chose to give them our attention, because they get no public attention. The companies running the Wisconsin plan do not allow them to give interviews and do not hesitate to take allowances from the ones that show a sense of rebelliousness or trying to get organized.