The past decade has seen little improvement in the status of Israel’s women despite the fact that more women than ever before are achieving higher levels of education, according to a report to be submitted to the United Nations on Monday, International Women’s Day, by the Israel Women’s Network (IWN).
Authored by the IWN’s Director of Research and Information, Yahel Ash Kurlander, the 50-page document points out that even though they have made great strides in the field of education, are increasingly participating in the workforce and even make up a large percentage of civic employees, women still earn less, are considered poorer and are far less influential in the government than their male counterparts.
The report will be presented within the framework of the UN’s Commission on the Status of the Women Conference, or Beijing +15, currently taking place in New York. The goal of the conference is to assess the achievements made by women worldwide since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 15 years ago, which set out guidelines for countries, including Israel, to advance equality, development and peace for the world’s women.
“The goal of this report is to inform United Nations members on the manners in which Israel has implemented the Beijing Declaration and curbed discrimination against women,” writes Kurlander in the report. “International pressure has proved successful in the past, such as in the struggle against trafficking in women in Israel, and we hope that this report will serve as infrastructure for international pressure to eliminate discrimination and promote women in Israel.”
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, now in its 99th year, is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for all.” Key findings of the IWN Women in Israel Report
“Discrimination against women in this country is spread across all sectors of society and culture,” commented Kurlander on Friday. “It is manifested in the salaries women earn and in the dilemma between going out to work or staying at home and taking care of the children.”
In the report, Kurlander examines the advancements women have made in education and their contributions to the economy. However, she also discusses their relation to poverty; the state of young women and girls; human rights of women; violence against women; personal status laws, such as those relating to marriage; public services for advancing the status of women and women in influential positions.
Kurlander’s research found that in recent years, on average, more than 60 percent of young Jewish women pass their high school matriculation exams, compared to only 50% of the boys, and the number of women reaching higher education is more than half of all those studying for a first degree.
In addition, women’s contributions to the country’s workforce reached 51.3% of all women in 2008, up from 46.3 in 1998.
However, the report also found that the average monthly salary for men is far higher than for women in all sectors of the market, with women making only 64% of what men take home; and in the civil service, even though some 65% of those employed by government are women, there is an overwhelming lack of females in higher positions of authority.
One fifth of all women over the age of 15 live in poverty, and in the past few years some 23% of women have admitted to going without food because they could not afford it, compared to only 18% of men.
“Some groups of women in Israel are hurt twofold,” added Kurlander, “both because they are women and because they are affiliated with a minority group, or due to a particular life circumstance. Significant examples include Arab women, refugee women and women in prostitution.” “Arab women suffer from structural discrimination because of their sex and their national affiliation,” she said.
“This report shows that discrimination against women still exists in many areas of Israeli society,” said Nurit Tsur, IWN’s director, “presenting a barrier to women’s success and their moving forward in their work, their private life and their family.” She added: “It is up to the entire society to fight this phenomenon, and up to the government to create the apparatus for it.”
Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Central Bureau of
Statistics released annual figures: 2,706,400 women over the age of 15
living in Israel in 2009, with more than 15% of them over the age of 65
and 7.5% over 75.
Some 152,500 women gave birth in 2008,
according to the CBS; 46,448 women were married and 13,105 got
divorced. The life expectancy for Israeli women, as of 2008, is 83
years, compared to 79 years for a man.