‘OECD membership will increase emphasis on social issues’
Women’s rights groups hopeful that new status will highlight gender inequality.
By RUTH EGLASH
Israel’s entry this week into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will help focus more attention on social and economic issues here, such as poverty and social inequalities, economic experts and social rights activists told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.“The OECD will act as a reminder to Israel that these issues need to be dealt with and improved,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Ayal Kimhi, an expert in agricultural economics, told the Post.“The OECD will act like a window on Israel’s social problems by publishing reports including statistics that will hopefully convince [the government] to deal with social problems facing our society,” added Kimhi, who is also the deputy director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies.Kimhi pointed out that Israel’s inclusion in the international organization, which aims to bring together world governments committed to democracy and boosting the market economy, has been a lengthy process, and during that time, issues such as poverty and social inequalities have received more attention from lawmakers, the media and society in general.“Of course, we have not seen the full results of this process yet,” he said. “But at least these issues are getting much more attention now than they did in the past.”One issue that local women’s rights group Naamat is hoping will be addressed now is the stark inequalities and barriers women face in the workplace.“We have been waiting for this,” lawyer Talia Livni, president of Naamat, told the Post. “Based on a report we conducted a year ago, there is a deep inequality between men and women in the workplace, and only once that is corrected will the country be able to grow economically.”AdvertisementAccording to Livni, women are the key to economic growth, but barriers such as costly childcare and inflexible work hours mean that their participation in the workforce is significantly reduced.Now that Israel is part of the OECD, which regularly evaluates issues relating to women, the workplace and social inequality, “our work will be backed up and our message to the government greatly strengthened,” said Livni.“The OECD reports will only support that work that we do, making the situation more transparent and, hopefully, encouraging the government to tackle such problems,” she added, noting that the OECD regularly made recommendations on how to improve social problems, based on the successes of other member states.“For example, [the OECD] puts the issue of government-subsidized day care centers as very high priority, or encourages member states to allow for more flexible work days so as to enable women to also work from home,” she said.“Obviously everyone sees the OECD’s importance differently, and we will be able to learn from other countries, although not all OECD countries have the same standards,” said Kimhi. “Actually, the inclusion of women in the Israeli workforce is rated quite highly compared to other member countries.”While in terms of the workplace, Israeli women might fare quite wellcompared to those in other OECD states, in many socioeconomic areas,Israel lags far behind the other 33 countries. The organization’s lasteconomic survey of Israel, published in January, showed that one-fifthof the population lives below the poverty line – much higher than theOECD average of 11 percent – and general participation in the labormarket is just 59%, compared to the OECD average of 67%.“No one says that Israel will be able to reach the OECD averages, butbeing part of this community will be a constant reminder of all thework that needs to be done,” finished Kimhi.
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