A new study on kibbutz life reveals that three-quarters of kibbutzim no longer distribute equal pay to their members.
The study, compiled by the Institute for the Research on the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea, found that 69 percent of kibbutz members earn less than NIS 7,000 a month. The average wage in Israel is NIS 7,836, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The study revealed that 188 kibbutzim, which make up 72% of all kibbutzim, now operate under the renewal model, whereby members receive differential pay according to their position and effort, instead of the traditional communal method, where each member received equal pay.
In both models the members retain joint ownership of the kibbutz's assets, such as buildings and factories. All kibbutzim also maintain a safety net, based on mutual guarantees, to ensure the members' basic welfare needs in areas such as healthcare, pensions, education and special needs.
According to the study, 14 kibbutzim transferred to the renewal kibbutz model between 2007 and 2008, and five more have switched since then. However, Dr. Shlomo Getz, who heads the institute, said the numbers don't necessarily indicate that the change from one system to another is halting, because in the past year 15 kibbutzim started to debate making the move.
Nine kibbutzim have chosen to take the middle path between the two systems and maintain equal pay, with bonuses for those who exceed the minimum requirements.
"The greatest challenge facing kibbutzim today is to form a model that suits the new times following a two-decade financial and social crisis," said Kibbutz Movement secretary-general, Ze'ev Shor.
"During the years of the crisis, major changes took place in the kibbutz way of life, but even at kibbutzim that operate according to the renewal model with privatization of wages, products and services, the principle of mutual guarantee and assistance to the weak remains part of the kibbutz's DNA," added Shor.
Kibbutz movement spokesman Aviv Leshem said that the kibbutzim have undergone an incredible revival over the past decade.
"In 2000, the kibbutz ideal was in great danger of falling apart completely. Facing harsh economic realities and high departure rates, many believed they would not survive. What we are seeing, is a gradual return of people to the kibbutzim, especially young families."
Leshem said that in the past two years more than 2,000 people have joined kibbutzim across the country.
Leshem explained that the reason for the renewed interest in kibbutz life was that people seek the quality of life that the kibbutzim offer, and at the same time the kibbutzim have adapted themselves to modern realities.
"Kibbutzim today are far less demanding of their members than they were in the past. They have become more flexible in their expectations of members," said Leshem.
He said today people can join kibbutzim either as full members, taking part in the joint assets of the kibbutz, or opt for partial membership, where a portion of their salaries go to kibbutz institutions.
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