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The government approved a policy of affirmative action Sunday aimed at increasing the number of Civil Service employees of Ethiopian descent, following a proposal submitted by Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert established an interministerial committee to examine why the integration of Ethiopians into Israeli society is failing and to draft solutions to improve the situation.
Figures published earlier this year by the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews had shown that despite a sharp rise in the number of Ethiopian Israelis completing higher education, many qualified Ethiopians were failing to secure employment in government offices and the Civil Service.
IAEJ director Danny Admasu called on the government to support implementation of changes to a 1959 affirmative action law to employ more Israelis of Ethiopian descent within the public sector. According to IAEJ spokesman, Avi Masfin, the law, which demands employment quotas for Arabs, women and disabled people, was amended last year to include Ethiopians, but government ministries have yet to increase efforts to employ more qualified Ethiopians.
"It is a great challenge to integrate Ethiopians into Israeli society," said Boim, following the government's weekly meeting. "It starts with integration within the public service framework. With the public service it will send a message to Israeli society that Ethiopians are also progressing academically."
The government agreed to three requests laid out by Boim: Increased employment of Ethiopian immigrants to reflect their numbers in society - from 1.1 percent to 1.5%; employment of more Ethiopian students in the government's service and adjusting the entrance exams into the Civil Service for Ethiopian applicants.
According to IAEJ's statistics, the number of Ethiopian's attaining higher education has more than doubled over the past 10 years, with upward of 15% boasting 13 years of study and 20% reaching 12 years. The association estimated that there are between 2,500-3,000 Ethiopian-Israeli academics.
Implementing a policy of affirmative action for Ethiopian Israelis will cost the treasury upwards of NIS 3 million.