Ethiopian higher education participation lags behind rest of Jewish population

Research shows youth excelling more than older generation in education, employment.

Israeli-Ethiopian leaders press conference (photo credit: ALONI MOR)
Israeli-Ethiopian leaders press conference
(photo credit: ALONI MOR)
The younger generation of Ethiopian Israelis is doing better in the fields of education and employment than the older generation, but there is still a long way to go in closing the gaps between the Ethiopian community and the rest of the country’s Jewish population in those areas.
These were the findings of a new survey by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, which is being released Thursday.
Taub Center researchers Hadas Fuchs and Gilad Brand put together the survey, which was entitled “Education and Employment Trends Among Ethiopian Israelis” and examined education and employment data for Israelis of Ethiopian origin between 1998 and 2011.
The study found substantial gaps in the number of academic degree-holders when comparing younger Ethiopians with their older counterparts, and comparing the Ethiopian population at large to other Jewish Israelis.
Only 20 percent of Ethiopians who were either born in Israel or moved here at a young age hold an academic degree – half the percentage (40%) of the rest of the Jewish population, the survey found.
However, the academic education rate among Ethiopians who moved to Israel after the age of 12 is even lower, at only 6%, and most of that 6% consists of people who arrived between the ages of 13 and 18, the study showed.
A more encouraging finding was the improvement in high school education among Ethiopians raised in Israel. According to the study, while the high school graduation rate among those who moved to Israel after the age of 12 is only 36%, that figure jumps to 90% among those who were raised here – a rate similar to that of the non-Ethiopian Jewish population.
In terms of employment rates, the study found that employment among Ethiopian citizens of prime working ages (25 to 54) has risen substantially over the past decade and stabilized during the 2009-2011 period at around 72% – only slightly lower than the 79% employment rate among other Jewish Israelis.
The increase was particularly sharp for Ethiopian women, who went from a 35% employment rate between 1998 and 2000, to 65% between 2009 and 2011.
An improvement is also evident in the number of work hours, the study said: There has been a decrease in part-time positions among Ethiopians over the past few years, alongside an increase in both their overall employment rate and the number of Ethiopians holding full-time positions.
As in the case of education, the employment figures for Ethiopians who were educated here were better than those for people who arrived at a later age.
Nevertheless, the study did show gaps between the Ethiopian population and the rest of the country’s Jewish population.
Only about 21% of Ethiopians educated in Israel are in the top echelons of the labor market, compared to about 40% of the rest of the Jewish population, and about 60% of Ethiopians have lowskilled or unskilled jobs, compared to some 41% of their non-Ethiopian Jewish counterparts.
Among Ethiopians who arrived in the country when they were older, the study found that 50% of women and 17% of men work in cleaning and kitchen services.
Employment figures in the same fields among Ethiopians educated in Israel are similar to those for the rest of the Jewish population, at around 3.9%.
“The Ethiopian Israeli community is worse off than the rest of the Jewish population.
That being said, there are substantial differences between those who moved to Israel at a later age and those who grew up in Israel,” said Fuchs in summarizing the report.
“The former are characterized by low education levels, and though they integrated into the labor force, they did so at the bottom of the labor market.... The education levels of Ethiopian Israelis who were educated in Israel along with the rest of the Jewish population are improving with time,” she went on. “Beyond that, the rate of Ethiopian Israelis who are working in a profession that matches their academic degree is similar to the rest of the Jewish population, though there is low representation in the professions with the highest relative wages and in management positions.”
According to Brand, there is an implied connection between these education and employment rates.
“It is implied that the relatively low education rates in the Ethiopian Israeli community are the main cause for the relatively low numbers in the labor market,” he said.
“This finding supports the importance of modern and high-quality education, with an emphasis on accessibility to the fields considered most prestigious, as a medium for integrating properly into the labor market.”
Citing the Central Bureau of Statistics, the researchers reported that as of 2013, the population of Israelis of Ethiopian origin stood at 135,500, about 1.7% of the total population.
The gross monthly cash income for an Ethiopian household was about NIS 11,452, approximately 35% less than the average population income of about NIS 17,711 per household.
The Taub Center is an independent, non-partisan institution for socioeconomic research based in Jerusalem.
The center provides decision makers, as well as the public in general, with a big-picture perspective on economic and social issues.