Israeli youth workers exploited, unaware of their basic rights, report finds

This year's report focused primarily on the restaurant and event hall industries, which employ tens of thousands of youth every year.

A teen rejected by her friends (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A teen rejected by her friends (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Youth workers, many of whom are unaware of their rights in the labor market, are continuously exploited by their employers, according to an annual report released by the Federation of Working and Learning Youth ahead of May Day.
This year’s report focused primarily on the restaurant and event hall industries, which employ tens of thousands of young people every year.
There are an estimated 380,000 working youth or youth actively seeking employment in Israel.
“Teens and youth have many problems. Lack of vocational training, high turnover in workplaces, gaps in power and age with the employer and unemployment make them one of the weakest population groups in the Israeli workforce and therefore the most exploited,” explained Yaakov Avid, coordinator of the professional union of children and youth at the federation.
According to the report, this vast market of employees is characterized by 40% unemployment, which allows for employers to take advantage of the youth, many of whom are unaware of their rights.
There were some 4,870 appeals to the federation, of which 1,454 cases (30%) were opened during the past year.
Only 167 made it to labor courts.
Of the appeals, the sector with the most complaints included event halls and food catering services, accounting for some 269 cases, followed by the fast food industry, accounting for approximately 222 appeals, and restaurants and coffee shops, accounting for 201 appeals.
As such, the findings indicated that in 2016, there was a 29% increase in the number of labor complaints filed against employers in the event hall and catering industries.
The report also stressed that more than 1,000 cases, accounting for 35% of all appeals, included complaints regarding wage disputes, including employers withholding wages, not paying wages in full and lack of payment slips.
Additional areas of complaint included wrongful termination (399 appeals), social benefits (373 appeals), transportation compensation (218 appeals) and overtime (179 appeals).
In breaking down the appeals by gender, the report found that male youth appealed more than female youth, who account for 41% of complaints. Furthermore, the report found that 97% of appeals were filed by Jewish youth, while the remaining three percent of complaints were filed by non-Jewish youth (Arab, Druse and Beduin).
Some NIS 1,218,400 million was awarded to youth over labor disputes this past year.
Sixty percent of cases were resolved within the year. The report noted that this is an important statistic, since it reflects the “fast treatment” in dealing with labor disputes with regard to youth.
“This is still the most central vulnerability of working youth in general, and we call on government ministries to increase enforcement of these labor laws,” the report stated.
As such, the study cited data from the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and said the findings indicate a decrease in enforcement of youth labor laws and the number of fines imposed on employers: 201 warnings, only 19 fines and six indictments.
“Only unionizing can erect a dam and change the existing situation,” Avid said, rather than trying to empty the “sea of exploitation” with a spoon.
He also commended the youth who organize together to demand their rights as the “heroes of the Israeli workforce.”