For the first time, Israel will decide on a minimum living income. Minister of Justice Avi Nissenkorn and Minister of Labor Itzik Shmuli announced their intentions lead a committee to decide on a minimum living income which will be used as a benchmark in insolvency procedures. The minimum living wage will be used to assess the share of a debtor’s income can be used to pay off debts.

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Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Photo: Yonathan Zindel/Flash90)

Although the committee will be primarily focused on insolvency cases, the definition of a minimum dignity living wage may be used as a precedent in other cases, including minimum wage laws and labor disputes in the future. In particular, a legal definition of a minimum standard of living which should be available to all citizens as a human right could be an important milestone in the effort to adopt a legal minimum living wage, which could be pegged to changes in the cost of living.

The difference between the established minimum wage and a living minimum wage is in the method of calculation. While the minimum wage is simply the lowest legal compensation for workers, a minimum living wage is linked to the real cost of living, and is based on a legal definition of basic needs which should be available to everyone in the labor market.

The demand for a minimum living wage has been increasingly gaining support around the world in recent years. While the minimum wage offers a fixed lower boundary for wages, critics have claimed that wages in the lowest earning sectors have not kept up with the cost of living, and often do not allow for a decent living.

This has pushed progressives around the world to demand that governments adopt official living wage ordinances. In 2016, for instance, Los Angeles County officially adopted a living wage ordinance, allowing for the legal minimum wage to rise steadily in relation to the cost of living.

Assessing the minimum living wage would mean that governments decide what basic needs should be defined as human rights, and should be afforded by everyone regardless of their position in the labor market. On the basis of that, real expenses and cost of living would be calculated to reach the legal minimum living wage.

Labor Minister Itzik Shmuli (Photo: Tomer Newburg/Flash90)

Progressives in Israel have expressed hope that once the definition of a minimum living income is adopted, it could be used to demand automatic periodical raising of the minimum wage.

“For the first time ever, the Israeli government will decide on an official minimum dignity living wage. This will set a precedent, and could allow to demand a minimum living wage for all Israelis as a basic human right,” said Shmuli, and added that “Debt repayment is important, but nothing justifies an infringement on human rights.”