Wednesday, August 1

Child Slaves in Israel

Sana, aged 12, makes 5 NIS an hour rolling stuffed vine leaves for a catering service. She's happy with her job, as finally she has some money for herself. She loves to buy tattoo stickers, ice creams and a pink t-shirt with a glittering heart.

Others are 15, or 14 and sometimes as young as 10 years old.
They work in stores, in fast food joints, building sites or carry your groceries to your well air-conditioned car in the supermarket's parking lot.
Some carry heavy loads in the market, others work in hothouses, where crops have been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. Sometimes you see them in construction sites, not wearing a hard hat, as there are none in their small head sizes.
They earn as little as 10 NIS an hour, although there were cases in which they received only 5 NIS. Many work long hours, without a break, often in the sun and sometimes with dangerous materials, without sufficient protection.

They are our very own children.

Some days ago the Ministry of Industry & Labour sent its supervisors to check on the employment conditions of minors doing summer jobs.

Guess what. In 70% (that's right, seventy) of the cases, they were employed in an illegal manner. In most of the cases, they earned way below the minimum youth wage. They do not receive payslips, nor are they given breaks. they are often employed for long hours or on saturdays. I could go on.

It makes me wonder. Who are those children? Whose children are they?

Frankly, i have to admit not being surprised by the employers. In the same manner they abuse migrant labourers, and adult employees from weakened backgrounds, they will abuse children as well, if and when they can get away with it. And that's an easy one, given the fact that children are little aware of their rights and even small amounts of money may seem a lot.

What does it say about our society? If this is how we treat our own children , how we teach them that it's OK to cheat them, that's it's just fine and dandy not to protect them against abuse, then why should we be surprised they turn out holding views we might not like so much?


Akiva said...

yudit,to get a better understanding of your post
a)what is the minimum age for permament employment in Israel?
b)what is the minimum age for casual employment during school vacations?
c)what is the minimum hourly wage (NIS) rate for casual and permant employees?

yudit said...

1. Until now children could be employed regularly from age 16, however a few weeks ago the school law was changed and now children must remain in school until the age of 18. So this will probably change.
2. Children can be employed during the summer holidays from age 14 but there are a number of limitations depending on their age.
The minimum wage for an adult is:
19.95 NIS per hour

For children, it depends on their age:
17 year old: 17.80 NIS/hour
16 year old: 16.08 NIS/hour
14-15 year old: 15.01 NIS/hour

There is no difference between casual or permanent employees as to wages.
Wages must be paid from the very first hour of work (also if the child is being trained) In addition employees must pay travel expenses
There is also extra pay for over time, but there are limits on overtime and work on shabat for employed children.

Anonymous said...

I want more information before I get hot and bothered. I think there's a loooong tradition of informal "child labor" that can't be equated to slavery in any sense. I myself recall picking up gumballs in the backyard of my childhood home for a penny a gumball so that my parents could mow the lawn. Technically illegal, I have never considered myself a freed slave.

yudit said...

what we are talking about here is NOT kids helping out their parents for a few hours now and then, but kids officially employed in "proper" jobs.

the check up was carried out by supervisors of the ministry of industry and labour and their findings were that in 70% of the cases the employers were legally wrong, either by not paying at least the minimum wage (which happens to be a crime in Israel) or not paying for "training days", not paying for travel (which they are legally obliged), employing them long hours in bad conditions and more.

70% is not trivial, but a large majority, which should majority and that should worry us very much

yudit said...

oops, i meant to say employers must pay travel expenses for their employees of up to about 20 NIS a day

Lirun said...

when i was at school i worked for 6 shekels an hour before tax.. i would work up to 12 hour shifts with no break.. and even when i finished at 3am i would not be paid for a taxi home even though there were no buses at that hour..

my employer was a witch.. i hated her.. but i loved my job and i still studied full time at school.. it allowed me to.. because money wasnt too available and i often had to take care of myself..

never felt deprived and never wasted it on fake tattoos or other junk..

i also find it interesting that you call this child slaves in israel.. whats the ethnic background of these kids? where do they work.. i want to go visit them..

yudit said...

Lirun, i have no idea what age you were, Sana's all of 12 years old, from a VERY poor background in Jaffa. she never has anything new to herself. I don't judge the way she spends her hard owned money. It's her right to do with it as she pleases.

Generally these kids come from all over the country. My info source is the Ministry of Industry and Labour, who sent their supervisors last week to check on the employment conditions of children in summer jobs. And the results of that check were disturbing.

We are not talking about minor infringes upon the law, but about a system in which employers can allow themselves to break the law as a matter of choice.The risk getting caught is very low. At most they will be fined now and then. As a result it is worthwhile to abuse the employees, because it pays off, apparently even when caught now and then.
Especially in areas where there is little employment, people have no choice. And when your employees are children themselves, who know little about the law and their rights, it's yet easier to abuse them.
When that happens in 70% of the cases, there is a serious problem. Even if the kids enjoy their job (which they might or might not) and use the money in order to pay for school tuition or books. that's not really the point.

You can go to many cafes and restaurants and check if the waiters/cooks etc. are being paid the at least minimum wage, if they receive travel costs, added salary for overtime, at night and during the weekend etc.
Were they paid for their first days on the job or were these considered "training days", where they received 0 money. Do they get a break or not?
If not, you can buy your coffee elsewhere.
In Jerusalem an NGO called "maagaley zedek" hand out a "social kashrut" certificate to cafes whose employees are employed according to Israel's labor laws. I wish they would do so in Tel Aviv as well.
I already boycott a number of places known to abuse their employees. It's the one thing i can do.

J.P. said...

Lirun, I would like to know in what kind of job you managed to work for up to 12 hrs without a break.

Lirun said...

jp - send me your cv and ill send you mine..

yudit said...

Lirun, your answer's a bit of a cop out.
Making a statement yours in the context of a discourse on slavery like conditions of child labour in Israel, lead to a legitimate question after all

Perdix said...

Bed tester at the Hästens factory would/will be the the perfect job for a person with my excellent qualification/long time experience.

Lirun said...

yudit - given that you have decided that my comments are not worthy of the delete privilege that offers commenters.. i choose my words carefully.. i do not owe it you or your blog to disclose anything merely because i partook in a discussion.. thats one point and the second is that its irrelevant which company it was..

i was 15 and i needed money to get by.. and i worked.. and i was treated somewhat imperfectly.. but i was grateful for the opportunity and i used that money in part for courses to advance my education and otherwise to make ends meet..


J.P. said...

Lirun, the question is not about the name of the company, but I would like to know in what kind of work you survived for up to twelve hrs. without a break.

I by the way allways have worked/and still am working for my government.
In a way I do fairly succesful "delete" problems.

Lirun said...

it was a fod retail outlet..

we were allowed to drink water but not eat and not stop working at any time.. when there werent customers we had to clean and restock and typically i would hold the fort alone..

sometimes there were 2 per shift..

Whisper said...


Stille der Nacht
Kinder lächeln im Schlaf
wenn Feen sie besuchen
Auch Greise versuchen
zu lächeln wie Kinder
Es glückt ihnen nicht immer -
sie sehen nicht den Schimmer
auf den Flügeln der Feen
nach denen sie greifen
mit wackligen Gesten
Die Kinder treffen's am besten

Stille der Nacht
Wer jetzt noch wacht
hört das Hertz der Stille
im eignen Hertzen ticken
Die Greise nicken
Die Kinder erblicken
die Stille der Nacht
im Antlitz der Mutter
zwischen Sternen und Mond
wo der liebe Gott wohnt

Rose Ausländer

Lirun said...

i should add.. i was grateful for the opportunity to work..

i was able to stay in school.. work.. attend enrichment courses.. volunteer and make ends meet..

every half empty glass is also half full..

yudit said...

When 70% of Israeli employers of children are abusing their junior employees in one way or another, i find there is very little to be pleased about.
The fact that some of us worked under appalling conditions (myself included) as children, doesn't make it OK.
In fcat, we should learn from our own experience, how easy it was to pay us not enopugh, not to allow us breaks and force us to work overtime. Precisely because some of us went through that expeirence ourselves, we should realize how wrong it is.

Lirun said...

where did you work yudit..

yudit said...

picking fruit and in a catering company. i also worked in a factory for a some time during one of my summer holidays as a young girl

Lirun said...

in israel?

Perdix said...

A job as fruit picker on the North- or Southpole would fancy me too.

Perdix said...

Or to do the mail in Tristan Da Cunha.