Israelis to enjoy one less hour of work per week

Starting April 1, the workweek will be cut to 42 hours, after which employees will get paid overtime.

Computer keyboard [illustrative]. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Computer keyboard [illustrative].
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Overworked and underpaid Israelis will get a rare break, as the government has decided to shorten the official workweek by one hour, without cutting pay.
Starting April 1, the workweek will be cut to 42 hours, after which employees will get paid overtime.
This will be the first time since 1995 that the Israeli workweek has been shortened. Night workers will also benefit, as employees will not be allowed to work more than seven graveyard shifts in two weeks.
Salaries are not expected to be reduced, leading to an increase in average hourly wages.
Israelis tend to spend more time in the office than workers in other developed countries. In 2016, Israelis worked on average of 1,889 hours per year, higher than the OECD average of 1,763 hours.
Workers in France and Denmark enjoy 35- and 37-hour workweeks, respectively, while Americans labor for 40 hours before they become eligible for overtime pay.
“By far, Israelis work a lot more hours than in most other countries,” Prof. Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University and the Shoresh Institute told The Jerusalem Post. “Part of the reason for that is the low wages. But the low wages are due to the low productivity in Israel, and there are no shortcuts around this.”
Shortening the official workweek is a “round-about way of raising wages” without addressing the underlying need to increase productivity in order to maintain economic growth, Ben-David said.
“The question is, ‘Who will pay for this?’” Ben-David said. “Will the employer pay for this? Or will they cut the work hours?”
While Israel is leading the world in terms of innovation and hi-tech, the country faces one of the lowest rates of labor productivity in the developed world.
Part of the problem is the relatively weak education offered in ultra-Orthodox and Arab schools. Other factors include low workforce participation on the part of ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women.
The Histadrut Labor Federation has long battled to shorten the workweek, arguing that Israelis were getting short shrift amid a Western trend of working fewer hours.
On Sunday, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz signed an order to adopt an agreement with employers on the measure from last year, which was negotiated with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn. The Manufacturers Association of Israel president Shraga Brosh and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also supported the move.
“The move promotes the proper balance between work and leisure, and this is an important first step towards achieving the goal – to ensure that the working week in Israel will be only 40 hours,” Nissenkorn said in a statement.