Defense Minister Ehud Barak wants conscripts to be paid minimum wage starting at their second year of service, he told MK Zahava Gal-On (New Movement-Meretz) in response to a question.

The issue arose during a discussion in the Knesset Finance Committee last week. Gal-On noted that salaries for career soldiers, who make up only 15% of the army's manpower, cost NIS 8.3 billion a year. These soldiers have an average wage cost of NIS 23,000 a month, while conscripts receive only NIS 460 a month, she said, adding, "This is a distortion that the country can and should change."

Three years ago, MK Amir Peretz (Labor) submitted a draft bill that called for paying all conscripts minimum wage. Barak objected to the proposal at the time.

Paying conscripts minimum wage starting in their second year of service would cost a total of NIS 4.2 billion a year, Gal-On calculated. This is based on an estimate of 175,000 conscripts, including 70,000 in their second year and 35,000 in their third year.

Minimum wage is currently NIS 3,800 a month.

Some 35% of the Israel Defense Forces' budget, or NIS 26 billion, is dedicated to salary costs, said Gal-On. This is 7% of the government's total budget, and more than the budgets of the agriculture, science, foreign, justice, industry, trade and labor, welfare and public security ministries combined.

The average career soldier earns 50 times the salary of a conscript. While the army spends NIS 8.3 billion paying the 30,000 career soldiers, it spends NIS 800 million paying the 175,000 conscripts.

The 7,400 civilians who work for the IDF earn even more than career soldiers on average - NIS 24,300 a month.