An Israeli Arab casts her ballot at a polling station inside a church in the northern town of Reineh.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An OECD report praises Israel in its efforts to deal with Israeli-Arab unemployment while recommending ways to better integrate them into the workforce.
The report, produced in cooperation with the deputy- director for employment at the Economy Ministry and the Economic Development Authority for the Minority Sector in the Prime Minister’s Office and released last week, notes that Israel has weathered the world financial crisis quite well, sustaining a low unemployment rate. It notes, however, that improvements can still be made in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors.
In particular, the report said the Arab population suffers from a lack of skills and that the government should invest more in professional training and career guidance.
The labor force participation rate in the Arab sector is only 52 percent compared to 66% for the general population.
The rate of participation among Arab women is only 28%, and 50% of Israeli Arabs live below the poverty line.
“The Economy Ministry has been leading an employment revolution in recent years that encourages the integration of the Arab sector in high-quality employment in the labor market,” said Ella Eyal Bar-David, an employment infrastructure coordinator for the Arab sector at the Economy Ministry. “There are already clear results, particularly regarding the employment of women and academics. The Economy Ministry has initiated a number of projects aimed at increasing employment, including establishing the Rayan employment centers in Arab communities, encouraging employers to integrate Arabs in hi-tech, [and] building day care centers,” she added.
“We are delighted to see that the OECD recognizes and appreciates the government efforts and notes how the Economy Ministry has been working hard to promote employment in Arab society.”
Bar-David told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that since most of the population is concentrated in the periphery, the lack of public transportation is a major obstacle.
Asked about cultural barriers for women in the Arab sector, she replied that there is a preference “to work in the community as part of the extended family.” She also noted that one of the tasks of her division is to “integrate minorities in high-wage jobs and career advancement.”
For example, she said, there exists a program to bring 1,000 Arabs to the hi-tech industry within three years.
Arab graduates of these programs successfully integrate into the Israeli workforce and are an example for others, she added.
In reaction to the report, Economy Minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri said, “inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs in the labor market is at the top of the agenda of the Economy Ministry.”
“This has tremendous significance since enhancing employment opportunities levers an increase in growth and strengthening the economy, as well as, of course, strengthening and empowering the employees in the ultra-Orthodox and Arab societies,” he said.
The OECD looked at Israeli employment centers in the Arab and Beduin sectors, which were established in recent years by the Economy Ministry in cooperation with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Tevet Employment Initiative and the Prime Minister’s Office, noting their important role in employment advancement.
The OECD recommendations include strengthening the connection between the Arab education system and the labor market, encouraging entrepreneurship and investment incentives and seeking to reduce employment gaps between the Arab and Jewish sectors. Other recommendations call for more government cooperation with local leadership, more research into the results of those that found employment and better training in English language skills.
In addition, it said, more emphasis should be placed on job quality over quantity.
The Economy Ministry has established 21 employment centers for the Arab sector in recent years in cooperation with JDC-Tevet and the Prime Minister’s Office. These centers provide employment guidance and consultation services, which include training and help with completing high school and higher education.