If the figures from the National Insurance Institute released on Sunday are to be believed, about 200,000 Israeli households, or one in 10, employed a cleaner in 2017.
However, that assumes that the family is paying NII (social security) benefits, and people in the household help sector estimate that only about half do that. The NII, which collected 90 million shekels ($16.7 million) in payments, declined to give its own estimate.
But in any case, the amount it takes in every year hasn’t changed in the last few years, even as Israel’s population has grown and the economy and consumer spending have risen sharply.
As it turns out, Tel Aviv is the city that never sweeps; someone else does it. Some 23,900 Tel Aviv households paid 15 million to the NII last year for cleaners, the biggest for any city, and families paid the most per hour for cleaning. The expensive suburbs of Kfar Saba, Ramat Hasharon and Herzilya employed a combined 23,400 cleaners and paid the NII 13.3 million shekels.
Not making NII payments saves money but the employers risk being liable for compensation to household help who get injured on the job. Many workers prefer not to report their pay to the authorities, too.
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In recent years, some well-known personalities have been caught illegally employing foreign workers as domestic help, among them former prime minister Ehud Barak and his wife Nili Preil, and former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein. That ended in big fines. However, there have been no cases of people being fined for failing to make NII payments for household help, although that is also a violation of the law.
To try to encourage families to make the payments, the NII had eased the process by no longer requiring those paying to name or provide any other identification of the worker. More recently it has resumed the requirement.