Arab women in workforce double, lag behind Jews

Bank of Israel report calls for establishment of employment guidance programs in Arab towns and schools, other measures.

Arab women an haredi man in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Arab women an haredi man in Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Arab women doubled their workforce participation rate between 1970 and 2010, but they continue to lag behind their Jewish female counterparts in this area, the Bank of Israel said Tuesday.
The central bank published its study one day after the International Monetary Fund recommended in its annual report on Israel that more steps be taken to increase Arab and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) employment. The IMF proposed improving basic child care, transportation and education in Arab communities, removing impediments to business establishment and strengthening enforcement of labor regulations.
About 20 percent of Arab women were employed in 2010, compared to just 10% four decades earlier, according to the report. This corresponded with a three-fold increase over the same period in the average number of years Arab females study – from 3.3 to 10.1.
The significant education divide between Arab and Jewish women was bridged over the past decades, but the gaps in the participation rate actually widened, the Bank of Israel researchers found. This led them to suggest that other factors such as culture, discrimination, lack of guidance, daycare and public transport accessibility are preventing Arab women from entering the workplace.
“Where education levels increased, the chances of finding a job and a higher wage also grew,” the report said. But it added that single women and divorcees were more inclined to participate, suggesting that cultural barriers are less restrictive to them, and that their households depend more on female income than the households of married women.
The report recommended a number of measures be implemented, including: the establishment of employment guidance programs in Arab towns and schools; introduction of professional training courses; subsidization of childcare and after school; provision of public transport to Arab communities; and cracking down on workplace discrimination.
The Prime Minister’s Office, Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and Joint Distribution Committee will authorize Wednesday the establishment of 21 employment centers for the Arab, Druse and Beduin communities over the next three years. The centers, which will cost NIS 200 million to build and will be operated by Arabic-speaking local residents, will aim to help job-seekers find suitable employment.
“Increasing the workforce participation rate of minority communities is one of the government’s central aims,” Ayman Saif, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office Economic Development Authority for the Arab, Druse and Circassian sectors, said. “These centers will supply the necessary foundations for achieving these aims, by providing a central employment address which is currently missing in minority municipalities.”
According to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, 47% of participants in programs operated by existing state-run employment centers found employment, while another 21% enrolled in professional training or higher education courses. About 60% of participants said the centers helped to strengthen their motivation, self-confidence and job-search skills.