'Only 18% of Israeli Arab women work'

NGO calls for national plan for greater job opportunities.

The Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab citizens in Israel sent a letter to Knesset members on Wednesday complaining about the status of Arab women in the labor market, and calling for a national plan to increase their employment. The economy loses NIS 6.2 billion a year by not integrating the Arab women in the national economy, the NGO wrote. "We sent a letter to every MK in which we ask for the state's support in improving the representation of Arab women in the Israeli job market," Mossawa economist Amin Fares told The Jerusalem Post. "We demand a national plan to expand the employment of Arab women that will include professional guidance bureaus, development of industrial parks near Arab towns, a greater investment in the education system in accordance with the market's demands and more accessible transportation for Arab towns and villages. "It is not right that in spite of the fact that Arabs constitute 20 percent of Israel's population, only 5% of them work in government offices," the letter continued. Only 71,000 (18%) of the 401,000 Israeli Arab women work, according to Mossawa. In addition, the average annual income for an Arab family is $7,700, compared with a national average of $19,000. "The argument that Arab women don't want to work or that they live in a society that doesn't allow them to work is no longer valid," said Fares. "Comprehensive research show that most Arab families support the idea that their daughters will make use of their professional skills and education. Today, more than 51% of the Arab students in Israeli universities are women. This situation creates frustration and damages the economic status of the Arab family," Fares said.