The Arab gender wage gap is low, but so is their income

The combination of less education and limited employment is linked to lower wages.

May 16, 2016 05:59
2 minute read.
A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday

A WOMAN walks past a campaign billboard for the Joint (Arab) List in Umm el-Fahm yesterday. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Similarly to many other advanced economies, Israel’s hourly gender wage gap of 14 percent is stark (though slightly below the OECD average).

The exceptions, however, are among Israel’s Arabs and ultra-Orthodox.

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The reason, according to data from A Picture of the Nation, a study the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel released last week, is that both men and women in these groups are mired in the lower echelons of the economy, if they are working at all.

“The unique situation among haredim and the relatively small male-female wage gap in the Arab-Israeli sector are the result of differences in the level of education and labor force participation of these populations,” the study found.

Among ultra-Orthodox, women actually earn more than men, because women are much more likely to work and to advance careers. Among Arabs, far fewer women work, although the vast majority of those who are educated do so.

The combination of less education and limited employment is linked to lower wages.

Among those aged 30-54 in 2014, secular Jewish men earned NIS 77 an hour on average, as opposed to NIS 59 for secular Jewish women, which is 23% lower. Arab men, however, earned NIS 42, and women earned 7% less: NIS 39. (These figures did not control for differences in education, occupation, industry of employment, full- or part-time work, and so on.) Among ultra-Orthodox, women earned 14% more than men (NIS 50 per hour as compared with NIS 44).

With regards to education, a smaller proportion of Arab Israelis are of school age compared to a few years ago, while the opposite is the case for secular Jews.

Earlier, at the start of the millennium, the relative portion of Arabs in preschools rose rapidly from around 20% in 2000 to 25% in 2006. However, the findings indicated that this trend has since reversed with the Arabs’ share falling by 3.5 percentage points to 21.5% in 2015.

The trends “seem to be related to decreased birth rates, connected to the increased labor force participation” of Arab Israelis, the researchers wrote.

With regards to higher education, the report found that in all segments of the population, more women than men graduated college.

Among Arabs in 2014, 21% of women had a bachelor’s degree compared to 18% of men. However, the report stated that a relatively low proportion of Arabs, both men and women, have bachelor’s degrees compared to other population groups.

By contrast, 58% of secular Jewish women and 50% of secular Jewish men held bachelor’s degrees in 2014.

The report also addressed some of the issues facing Arabs with regards to labor market participation.

Arab women, along with ultra-Orthodox men, stand out for their low employment rates. Among Arabs, almost twice as many men work as do women, the findings indicated. The employment rate of 25-54 year olds in 2014 was 79% among Arab men and 47% among Arab women.

In contrast, the employment rate among the same age group in 2014 among secular Jewish men and women stood at 90% and 88%, respectively.

Nevertheless, employment among Arab-Israeli women is on the rise, though it continues to lag far behind the rest of the population.

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