Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday told a conference on equal economic opportunity that “the key to peace is to work together.”
“A country that wants to live in peace with its neighbors, must first live in peace with itself. Respect for others, to accept others and to work with others,” he said at the fifth annual conference led by the Economy Ministry’s own Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The commission aims to reduce discrimination and integrate populations into the labor force.
“Today, unfortunately, where you were born has a dramatic impact on your opportunities – whether you were born in an Arab village or in Bnei Brak, whether you are Ethiopian or female. Just because of the color of your skin or the geography of your birth, your chances of succeeding are much smaller,” Bennett said. “We want every person to enjoy equal opportunity to realize their dreams.”
The groups whose integration into the labor force are most crucial for Israel’s longterm economic benefit are Arabs, among whom women have very low participation rates, and the ultra-Orthodox, among whom men have very low participation rates.
One survey showed that 42 percent of Jewish, Hebrew-speaking employers preferred not to hire Arab men and 37% preferred not to hire haredi men. Both employers and employees showed some reluctance to work alongside Arab men (46%), ultra-Orthodox men (30%) and even educated Arab women (28%).
The commission recently introduced a public service announcement ad derisively depicting employers competing to throw away perfectly good résumés based on such prejudices.
“We have to take a holistic approach,” Equal Employment Opportunity commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair told The Jerusalem Post. “First it has to be that we’re open and honest and there’s a conversation, which isn’t to be taken for granted. Then, people have to realize that it’s good for business. And then there’s a moral piece, which is always less attractive for employers, but this is a democratic state, and these things have to be addressed for a government body to uphold and consistently ensure a progressive economy in a democratic state.”
An oft-overlooked group that faces labor discrimination is women, who still earn, on average, less than men for a variety of reasons. The commission found that 60% of its discrimination complaints from women were related to pregnancy and child-rearing.