(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The government’s announcement Wednesday night to increase the minimum monthly
wage by NIS 450 over the next year and a half was met with caution and measured
disappointment Thursday, with social rights activists and even former welfare
and social services minister Isaac Herzog pointing out that the plan does not go
far enough to tackle the deep-rooted economic difficulties faced by many
“It’s obviously a very important social step toward improving
poverty levels in this country but it comes far too late and does not include a
coherent plan to combat poverty,” commented Herzog, who resigned from his post
Herzog, who spent four years heading the ministry that deals
with some of the country’s weakest segments of the population, pointed out that
one of his steps as minister was the creation of a comprehensive plan to combat
poverty, which he presented to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz during his final months in office.
received a response from the prime minister or the finance minister to my plan
to tackle poverty,” said Herzog, adding that while the move to increase the
minimum wage was surely welcomed, it had come much too late.
little, too late,” echoed social rights activist Tami Molad-Hayo. “While it’s a
welcome step, it’s not enough just to increase wages like this. There needs to
be a process in place where it goes up automatically in accordance to increasing
prices.” She added, “The problem is that the cost of everything else is
increasing too – health costs, education, welfare, food prices – and this
increase does not address that rise.”
Molad-Hayo is part of a network of
NGOs – including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Rabbis for Human
Rights; Osim Shinui [Making Change]; Shatil, the social rights branch of the New
Israel Fund; the Israel Center for Social Justice and the Black Panther movement
– calling for economic reforms in Israel. The network plans to hold parlor
meetings and demonstrations calling for the government to address poverty more
“We believe that as well as increasing the minimum wage, the
state needs to improve its services to the citizens,” she said, explaining “it’s
not only about helping those who live below the poverty line.
many people in this country considered middle class who can’t make ends meet and
the cost of all the services meant to be provided by the government just keep on
“Take education, for example. People have to send their
children to school because it’s mandatory and it’s supposed to be free. But it
isn’t and the cost keeps on increasing while the services get weaker and
weaker,” pointed out Molad-Hayo.
“Of course adding NIS 450 will mean
there are less poor people in terms of statistics but we want to see a real
change in people’s lives and the hardships they face. We want to change the
In January, the National Insurance Institute released a report
showing that increasing the minimum wage by only NIS 450 a month per person
would likely help some 75,000 individuals, including 33,000 children, escape the
Wednesday’s announcement by the government reflects the
decision made two months ago by the Histadrut labor federation and the
Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations to raise the minimum wage from NIS
3,850 a month to NIS 4,100 in July 2011 and a further NIS 4,300 in October
“The amounts are okay, but it’s not a step where we can say, ‘Wow‚
the government has really gone all out to help the country’s poor people,’”
observed Ran Melamed, deputy director of social policy and communication for the
nonprofit organization Yedid.
“It will help some people but will not
really solve the problem and it certainly does not keep up with the increases in
prices of basic goods.”
Meanwhile, roughly 10,000 social workers are set
to strike on Sunday over the government’s failure to agree on an adequate wage
increase for them.
According to the National Union of Social Workers,
even though most social workers have academic degrees, the base pay for a new
social worker in the public sector is no more than NIS 2,300 a month, with
income support and other fiscal benefits bumping it up slightly.
two or three years in the trade, social workers can usually expected to earn no
more than NIS 6,000 a month. They have been in negotiations for more than six
months with the Treasury to change the pay scales.