As the International Women's Day approaches, the minimum wage in Israel is still widely unenforced, especially in the Arab sector. Thousands of Arab women working full time jobs are paid significantly less than NIS 4,100, but refrain from complaining to their employers because they are scared to lose their jobs. The Authorities are well aware of the problem, but still do not enforce labor laws properly.
"I have been working in a clothing shop in Tira for three years, eight hours a day. I earn only NIS1,950 every month," Anat Mansur, 26, told Ynet. "I have no choice. I need this money to support my family. If I report my boss to the authorities I will be fired," she said. Mansur said that if public transportation was better, she would look for a job in the Jewish sector. According to Anat, the business is profitable, but her boss refuses to give her a raise, claiming that the economy is still lagging.
Sana Kashkush from Qalansua tells a similar story. As a student she worked in an attorney's office for only NIS1,800 . "I hoped that a lawyer would pay better, but was disappointed" she said. "Employers in Arab sector exploit women in a demeaning and illegal way, but Women are too scared to complain," claimed Sana.
According to Central Bureau of Statistics data, one in four Arab women is underpaid, compared to only 11% in the Jewish sector. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry stated in response that these numbers, as well as the enforcement problems, are known to the authorities.
In addition to the low wages, Many Arab women don't receive basic welfare benefits such as vacation and sick days. A 31-year-old woman working at a prestigious doctor's clinic as an office manager was earning only 2,500. Every year she was promised a raise, but never received it. "After six years I decided to quit my job and started cleaning houses, it pays better," she said.
Enforcement difficulties live Arab women helpless (Photo: Reuters)
Without enforcement, employers can exploit their women workers' weaker social position to their benefit. A woman from Wadi Ara working for an engineer reported a salary of only NIS1,700, for working eight hours a day, six days a week. Her salary equals only NIS 8.5 per hour.
A known problem
The Commission for Equal Opportunities in the Workplace at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry stated in response that rights violations of Arab women are taken seriously. "The commission undertakes an array of measures to eradicate this phenomenon, including raising awareness among Arab women and employers to their rights and duties according to the law," stated the response.
The commission called on Arab employees to turn to them for free legal council, and to file complaints.
According to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, this is a well known problem, and it is being treated with focused enforcement efforts. The ministry's response stated: "We have targeted the Arab sector as a first priority for labor laws enforcement. The women in the sector are more exposed to discrimination than any other sector."
"We target workplaces characterized by a large number of women employees, and enforce minimum wage laws and other labor laws," stated the ministry's response. The current fine for underpayment is NIS 5,000 per employee.