United Arab List-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi complained during a meeting of the Knesset Finance subcommittee on Tuesday that Arabs are “underrepresented in public service.”
“Israeli Arab representation in public service is very bad, making up less than 10 percent – while they make up 20% of the population,” said subcommittee chairman Tibi.
Tibi headed the research committee on the subject during his last term, which succeeded in increasing Arab integration into the public sector from a rate of 4.5% five years ago.
Tibi called on the government to address the issue and explain “what is being done in terms of affirmative action to close the gap between the proportion of Arabs in the population to those in public service.”
Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) addressed the issue stating, “The government is willing to allocate funds to advance the integration of Arabs into the public service.”
Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan said that the he is working to increase the number of Arabs in public positions and that the ratee is currently at 9%. He added that the proportion of Arabs in the civil service has increased by one percent every year since he took office.
Meretz head MK Zahava Gal-On said that affirmative action for Arabs should be used for all government positions.
However, a recent study by Professor Steven Plaut, from the Graduate School of Management at the University of Haifa, argues that “there is no evidence that points to ethnic discrimination against Israeli Arabs or Mizrahi Jews in Israeli labor markets.”
Plaut says he does not mean to say that discrimination never exists against Arabs in Israel or others, but that the “fact that empirical evidence of discrimination is so hard to discern or observe must itself serve as an important warning indicator about its magnitude or lack thereof.”
Plaut dismisses the notion that ethnic or racial demographics of the general population should be equally present in each job sector.
“Nowhere in the real world does fair competition produce homogeneous representation in any market. Indeed, the only way in which such homogeneity can be achieved is through a rigid anti-competitive system of assignments in hiring or admissions by quota…” he writes in an article titled, “The Myth of Ethnic Inequality in Israel,” in the Summer issue of the Middle East Quarterly journal.
For example, he states that Israeli Arabs are greatly over-represented in schools of pharmacy, but “not because these schools discriminate against Jews.”
Arab women, for example, and particularly married Muslim women, have much lower labor force participation rates, which “means that most employed Arab women are young and not yet married,” which could explain the difference in earnings compared with Jewish women.
And, interestingly, the median age of Muslim Israelis is 19 and for Jews 31 (Christian Arabs 30).
In addition, Plaut says that the complexity of ethnicity in Israel of both Jews and Arabs can mislead when looking at official statistics.
“There are important differences in socio-economic status and performance among Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, and Druse. Those sub-categories are in fact amalgams of even smaller divisions. For example, there are interesting differences between ‘ordinary’ Arab Muslims and Bedouins,” said Plaut.