Most of Israel's Expendable Workers Are Women

Minimum wages promote minimal life. Neither men nor women need to live that sort of life.

As usual, discussions about subcontracted work, phrased in masculine plural in Hebrew, euphemistically disguise the fact that as in the cases of teachers or social workers, the people in question are exploited women laborers. These women workers earn starvation wages, and are treated like merchandise by their employers.

Yes, once again I am counting the number of women as opposed to men. But reality compels me to do so - and there are no general figures relating to male and female workers employed by contractors in Israel. Yet a sample of 12,000 wages of such subcontracted workers discloses that more than two-thirds of them are women.

The three primary areas in which workers are engaged by such contractors are security protection, caregiving and cleaning. Virtually all workers in these areas are employed by contractors; and the vast majority of laborers in them are women. Moreover, in cases of employment via such contractors, male laborers earn more than their female counterparts.

Out of the 12,000 salaries that were examined for us by Oketz Systems, a company that specializes in wage management, the distribution among caregivers was 15 percent men and 85 percent women. The average salary for men was NIS 3,892, as compared to NIS 2,859 for women. The cleaning sphere, in which women constitute 93% of the workers, is the only one in which employees earn less than the minimum wage: 21.45 NIS per hour. In parallel, this is the branch in which the average number of monthly hours is the highest. In other words, women are forced to work many more hours as cleaners in order to obtain compensation levels enjoyed by men as security guards.

Ironically, the gap between male and female workers employed by such contractors is one of the least extreme in the economy - 11%. That is a minimal differential when compared to the 40% wage gap yawning between men and women in high-tech fields, and the 30% average differential in the economy. This is what happens when we descend to the lowest depths of the economy: Workers do not earn enough for there to be drastic gender wage differences.

The public discussions, couched in the male plural, conceal the fact that the strong worker committees that staged the strike yesterday are connected to companies in which the decisive majority of workers are men. In the Israel Electric Corporation, the sea ports, the Dead Sea factories and other workplaces in which average wages are among the highest in Israel, and collective wage agreements confer to workers comfortable conditions and genuine work security, no less than 90% of the workers are men.

That's the picture: Most of the satisfied workers, who earn a high wage and have job security and pensions, are men. Most of the famished, exploited and expendable workers, workers who lack security and assets, are women.

It is axiomatic that men earn much more than women: Central Bureau of Statistics data reveal that women earn an average monthly salary of NIS 6,386, in contrast to the average male monthly salary of NIS 9,720. The data also reveal the extent to which the stunning gap between modern slaves and workers who have power and privilege (not counting wealthy capitalists ) is, in fact, a class gap between men and women. That's the way it is.

Traditionally male fields continue to enjoy respect and high salaries. Caregiving and teaching are "women's fields." Men who designate wage levels for these fields will continue to regard them as inferior work branches, and accord minimal salaries to them. That is how almost half (! ) of the country's social workers were relayed to employment by subcontractors. This is also why there is a trend toward the employment of teachers by such contractors. And it is also the reason why, despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of women teachers, their committees will never be able to win for them wage and employment terms comparable to those given to employees in the Ashdod port or the Israel Electric Corporation.

It's not that I harbor petty resentments toward IEC employees. On the contrary - the point is that these work conditions should be awarded to working women. The struggle against "contracted labor" is the topic of the day, and it is an important one. But it is more important to realize that women are also people, and they weren't exactly born to work and serve men.

Minimum wages promote minimal life. Neither men nor women need to live that sort of life.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: המונח הנכון הוא עובדות קבלן