Survey: Kibbutz Wage Gaps as High as 700 Percent

Wage gaps at kibbutzim that pay differential salaries to their members are as high as 700 percent, according to a new study commissioned by the Kibbutz Movement's human resources division.

Amiram Cohen
Eli Ashkenazi
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Amiram Cohen
Eli Ashkenazi

Wage gaps at kibbutzim that pay differential salaries to their members are as high as 700 percent, according to a new study commissioned by the Kibbutz Movement's human resources division.

The survey covered 36 kibbutzim that pay different wages for different types of work. However, only jobs relating to the kibbutz itself were examined: Salaries in kibbutz-owned industrial companies were not.

The study found that the highest salary, an average of NIS 29,909 a month gross, was earned by "sector chairmen," or those responsible for a particular kibbutz "sector" (agriculture, industry, tourism, etc.). Other highly paid officials included the economic coordinator (NIS 17,342), the kibbutz secretary (NIS 16,196) and the treasurer (NIS 15,296).

In contrast, an ordinary kitchen or dining room laborer earns only NIS 3,740 on average - less than one-seventh of what a sector chairman earns. People who work in the children's house earn NIS 3,804, a secretary earns NIS 5,454, a launderer earns NIS 4,198 and a librarian earns NIS 4,477.

But if kibbutz wage gaps echo those of the outside world, the same is not true of the gender gap: Contrary to the norm that women generally earn less than men for the same job, the salaries of female kibbutz secretaries averaged NIS 16,333 a month, compared to only NIS 13,489 for men in the same job.

Dafna Kantor, head of the Kibbutz Movement's human resources division, said that the survey was commissioned to provide information that could help newly privatized kibbutzim set wage policies and veterans of the differential pay scale adjust theirs.

Over the last six years, 130 of Israel's 257 kibbutzim have switched to a differential wage policy. Another 37 follow a "mixed" model, in which there are some elements of differentiation alongside areas where the traditional model of strict equality prevails. Only 90 kibbutzim retain the traditional model in full.

"In such a situation, we must provide professional tools for improving the system," Kantor said.

While some in the Kibbutz Movement described the data - which was published in full in the movement's newsletter - as "explosive," others emphasized the positive aspect. For instance, they noted, even the lowest paid kibbutz employee earns more than the minimum wage, whereas as the highest paid still earn less than their counterparts in the private sector.

"These facts pleased me," said Kantor.

But Omri Ron, a former secretary of the Kibbutz Artzi movement who has also served as a member of Knesset, charged that the survey actually understates the picture. In some kibbutzim, he said, managers earn almost NIS 40,000 a month while the lowest paid workers earn minimum wage - meaning the former's salary is 12 times that of the latter.

Despite this, he agreed with Kantor that publication of the data was a good thing - though for different reasons.

"The table is good for our public relations," explained Ron, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek and a representative of the kibbutzim that adhere to the traditional model. "Now, people can see the gaps. Usually, those who advocate change at the kibbutzim tell the members: `You can only know your salary, not your neighbor's.'"

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