REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- The public did not respond kindly this year when members of the Knesset, Israel's 120-seat parliament, received a clothing stipend of more than $1,000 each.
After a heated parliamentary committee debate, a team was appointed to review legislators' salaries and benefits, which some members maintained were low by international standards.
Now a study conducted by the Knesset Research and Information Center at the request of lawmaker Meir Shetrit, who heads the team, has found that Israel's lawmakers earn nearly 38% more than most of their counterparts around the world in terms of buying power in their country. The research surveyed the salaries of members of 24 parliaments and found that Israeli lawmakers enjoy the fourth-highest buying power, after Canadian, American and German legislators.
According to the study, published in Haaretz's economic magazine The Marker this week (in Hebrew), the annual buying power of an Israeli member of parliament totals 417,000 shekels (about $112,000). It should be noted that lawmakers in Israel are not allowed to work outside parliament, unlike in many other countries.
Another study by the same research center found that women in civil service in Israel earn an average of 23% less than men. Different factors contribute to this gap, including that fewer women hold high-level positions. Women account for 65% of the civil service workforce but only 47% hold high-level jobs, according to the center.
In the Knesset, women hold 24 of the 120 seats.
Lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely, chair of the Knesset's women affairs committee, told reporters: "Israel is light-years away from gender equality, especially in the work force."
-- Batsheva Sobelman