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March 19, 2018

"Large strides" made by Arab Israeli women in education and employment rates

"Large strides" made by Arab Israeli women in education and employment rates

Arab women in Israel have historically had substantially lower employment rates and levels of education than Jewish women.

Indeed, Tali Larom and Osnat Lifshitz, in The labor market in Israel, 2000—2016, describe Arab Israelis as typically “characterized by low employment and participation rates, higher poverty rates, a higher level of dependence on the welfare system, and lower education levels.” Research published by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel however, indicates that these trends are beginning to change.

The number of Arab Israeli women passing the bagrut (matriculation) exam exceeds that of Arab Israeli men and is also approaching the pass rate of Jewish Israeli women. Furthermore, Arab Israeli women are opting to study high school subjects that have high future earnings potential such as science and engineering. Only 39% of Jewish Israeli women undertake scientific-engineering degrees, compared to 71% of Bedouin women and 85% of Christian women, both from the Arab Israeli population.

Nevertheless, challenges remain as Arab Israeli women continue to pursue careers in the education sector, an increasingly saturated market, rather than more lucrative fields. The authors of the report, Hadas Fuchs and Tamar Wilson, highlight the need to direct female students towards other fields by increasing “the supply of quality, suitable jobs” and creating “support mechanisms for women who work in fields that are not considered classic ‘women’s jobs’.”

The Israeli government has established several programs to help Arab Israelis integrate into the labor market since 2012. Indeed, Larom and Lifshitz comment on the increase in educational access for Arab women in Israel, where until the 1990s there were “only 21 academic institutions that could grant a bachelor’s degree,” compared to 67 universities by 2000. However, the research recommends increasing awareness of professions in high demand, and increasing labor market opportunities in Arab Israeli regions.

Although the report points to a rise in employment among Arab Israeli women, this is much more moderate than the rise in education levels. Increasing from 18.9% to 32.3% between 2001 and 2015, the employment rate of Arab women is still “extremely low” when compared to 87% among Jewish Israeli women, and this gap will only narrow very slowly if education trends continue, write Larom and Lifshitz.

The Taub Center commented that, “a more balanced distribution of fields of study and employment among Arab Israeli women would likely lead to better integration into the labor market and is a potential source of growth for the Israeli economy in the coming years.”

Read more articles on education and labor policy.

For specific expertise on the labor market in Israel get in touch directly with Tali Larom or Osnat Lifshitz.