A More Targeted Approach to IDF Reservist Compensation

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Israeli reserve soldiers are making unimaginable sacrifices to protect their country. To rise to the challenge of meeting the IDF's expanded personnel needs, Israel's policy solutions must be as diverse as are the reservists serving this nation. A "one-size-fits-all" compensation approach will not cut it.

Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90

When Israelis finish their compulsory service with the IDF, many become part of Israel's reserve forces, for which a typical, non-officer soldier can be called up to serve up until age 40. This deep seeded social contract may be facing significant changes before our eyes given Israel's security situation. On February 8, 2024, an amended draft of the Reserve Service Bill was posted for public comment—a bill that would extend the period of time for reserve service in general, and for wartime in particular. The immediate result of this would be to triple the number of reserve days and to raise the age of exemption of a non-officer soldier from reserve duty from 40 to 46, and for an officer to 50.  

The activation of the reserves following October 7 was all encompassing. Some 287,000 men and women were called up; as of this writing they have served an average of 61 days in uniform. This turnout was reflected not only in the large number of reservists (of whom a higher-than-usual 14% were women), but also in the relatively large number of casualties they have suffered. Those who bear the burden of reserve service left behind their families, their studies; their careers. They took up arms in full awareness that they might have to pay a heavy economic, domestic, and professional price, and sometimes even pay with their lives. Reservists represent a diverse mosaic of Israeli society, including residents from the center of the country and the periphery; with very different occupational, sectoral, and socioeconomic profiles. With this demographic diversity also comes a diversity of needs.

Now, just over four months into the war, the reservists are being gradually decommissioned. Now the issue of their livelihood, studies, and family comes to the fore and demands solutions. Reservists who returned to their jobs have begun receiving pink slips or a summons to a pre-dismissal hearing. Many spouses who were left at home to take care of children, finances, and household needs (according to the IDF Personnel Directorate, 112,000 reservists have spouses and children) have been sent on unpaid leave, fired, or had their hours reduced. Many reservists now find themselves moving from a war to protect the homeland to a war to protect their livelihoods and their homes.

As changes reflected in the Reserve Service Bill come under consideration, we cannot ignore the considerable weight this would add to the burden of military service, nor the deepening of inequality between the populations who serve and those who do not, such as the ultra-Orthodox. To help mitigate this burden, the Bill proposes an increase to the minimum daily compensation of reservists, set at NIS 310 (the equivalent of just over 80 dollars per day). It also notes "additional benefits and entitlements for the reserve officers [as] determined in recent months by government decisions."

Such benefits are presented as a comprehensive measure in response to the needs of reservists, but they are not sufficiently sensitive or adaptive to the varying needs of service members across different types of employment status (e.g., salaried employee, self-employed, student), population sectors, or socioeconomic status. Additional measures are needed in order to bridge the gap, including additional compensation and benefits. Take, for example, a student who must work in order to finance their academic studies. For these cases, it is recommended to establish criteria to finance a certain level of living and housing expenses, so they do not end up in a situation in which they are forced to decide between continuing to work or continuing to study.

To support salaried employees and their families, it is recommended to extend the period of protection against layoffs from 60 to 90 days for reservists and from 30 to 60 days for their spouses. In cases of layoffs, during the period of time between the date of dismissal from work until they are recalled for duty, it is recommended to enshrine in the law continuity of employment, such that they are entitled to benefits such as unemployment. 

Policy solutions that offer differential responses for the diverse needs of reservists from different occupational, sectoral, and socioeconomic groups will provide a more targeted solution. It is essential that these issues be seriously considered as we work towards expanding reserve service and meeting the personnel needs of the IDF.  Above all, it is critical to appropriately compensate the men and women for the sacrifice they are making for their country, ensuring compensation increases alongside the days of service required, and that such compensation be adjusted to suit the needs of different populations as much as possible.


This article was published in the Jerusalem Post.