Gender wage gaps in Israel among highest in developed world

The report, written by Sagit Azary-Viesel and Prof. Dan Ben-David, offered a comprehensive review of the gender gap in Israel's labor market.

March 6, 2016 19:44
3 minute read.
A woman and a girl sit in front of the Mediterranean at the beach in Ashkelon

A woman and a girl sit in front of the Mediterranean at the beach in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Gender wage gaps in Israel are among the highest in the developed world, according to a new report released by the Shoresh Institute ahead of International Women’s Day, marked annually on March 8.

The report, written by Sagit Azary-Viesel and Prof. Dan Ben-David, offered a comprehensive review of the gender gap in Israel’s labor market.

According to the findings, wages of full-time male employees were 22 percent higher than wages of fulltime female employees in 2011 – the fourth highest of OECD countries and some 33% higher than the OECD average.

Despite these figures, the report stated that gender wage gaps in most OECD countries and in Israel have been in decline over the past decade. Israel has seen a 6.3% decline in wage gaps since 2001, placing Israel in the middle of OECD countries in terms of the average annual rate of decline.

The report also found that the past five decades have witnessed an increase in female employment, primarily due to the correlation between higher levels of education among women and employment.

The report cited that since the 1980s, the employment rates of women with 0-10 years of schooling have been steady at around only 30%. While in contrast, employment rates among women with 16 or more years of schooling have been steadily increasing from around 66% in 1967 to almost 90% in recent years.

The findings further indicated that, due to a steady improvement in the education levels of Israeli women, an increasing number of women have “entered classifications of education characterized by high and rising rates of employment.”

As a result, the researchers found a nearly threefold increase in female employment rates over the past five decades – this, in contrast to a steady decline in male employment rates until the early 2000s.

The report noted that the past decade has seen a steady increase in both female and male employment rates primarily because of the Israeli economy’s emergence from a recession during the second intifada and due to cuts in welfare benefits that encouraged people to enter the workforce.

The report also examined the primary reasons for unemployment among women. It found that 54.3% of women in Israel reported that they did not enter the workforce because of the need to care for their children and for the home. The researchers found that an important factor in this is the high cost of early childhood care.

In addition, 22.1% of women said they searched for a job but were unable to find one, and 25.3% cited physical and mental limitations in finding a job.

With regards to the role of education in employment, the report found that the higher the matriculation level of studies in mathematics and science, the greater students’ chances of getting accepted to the best academic institutions and into disciplines leading to higher paying jobs.

The researchers stated that the past several decades have seen a substantial decline in the gap between boys and girls studying the highest levels of matriculation exams (4 and 5 units) in at least two math and science fields.

While the report noted that the education gender gap was decreasing, the researchers found that this was not due to an increase in the number of girls taking courses at higher levels.

In fact, they stated that there has been a decline in the percentage of girls studying in these fields.

Rather, the decline in the gap was the result of an even sharper decrease among boys studying high levels of math and science.

The researchers noted that these trends yield “negative implications for the future in areas of employment, incomes, poverty, productivity and economic growth at the national level.”

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