Lower Scores, Better Pay: How Israel's Public Sector Expanded Over the Last Decade

Staffing and wage increases outpaced population growth, while pay gaps persisted between genders and communities

Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover
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Yisrael Katz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, in 2019.
Yisrael Katz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover

Israel’s public sector become more bloated in the past decade. The number of positions in education and public health rose by 35% and 26%, respectively, far outpacing population growth in 2010-19, a report by the treasury’s wage commissioner issued Monday showed. Ministry staffing rose 19%.

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Pay also spiked, by an average of 30% for ministry employees and 35% for health care workers in the period. Average pay in all public sectors in the report (education, health, defense) rose over 25%, six percentage points above the private-sector average.

That made them especially well-paid: Some 80% of state employees earn more than the national average; 13% earn 25,000 shekels ($7,600) a month. Only 1% were paid less than 6,000. More than 9% earned so little they qualified for income support, but the figure is misleading because eligibility is based not on gross income – much higher after pay supplements – but on base pay.

Despite rising wages and staffing levels, the average score for new civil service hires on psychometric exams fell over the decade and on average were lower than for those who left the civil service, the wages commissioner found. Few civil servants changed jobs between public sector employers: In 2019, only 6% did, compared with 14% in the private sector.

Pay gaps were widespread, the report said. For instance, in the public health care sector, women earned on average 27% less than men; in the private sector the gap was even greater, at 32%. On the other hand, the wage gap between Jews and Arab throughout the public sector was just 7%, one-fifth of the difference nationwide.

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