The rate of employment among Israeli Arab women between the ages of 25 and 64 dropped in 2015 to 31.5% from 32.3% in 2014 after rising from nearly 30% in 2013, according to statistics released by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center. The employment rate among Jewish women of the same age is 79.7%.

The data, presented to the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality on Monday, further showed that Jewish women earned 45% more than Arab women on average – 7,663 shekels versus 5,271 shekels – in 2014.

The committee`s meeting focused on the employment of female Arab university graduates. ”Arab women want to work, and the state has already been convinced of this, but it has yet to be convinced that we have the necessary skills to work in all professions,” said the committee`s chairwoman, MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List).

Systematic failure in dealing with low employment rate among Israeli Arab women

(MK Aida Touma-Sliman, archives)

”The Ministry of Economy is using only 28% of its budget to advance the employment of Arab women, and the Health Ministry has used only seven of the 20 million shekels at its disposal towards this end,” she added. ”We want to realize our right, but even more so, we are being denied an important path to leave the circle of poverty.”

According to the study, which was conducted by Shelly Mizrahi-Simon of the Research and Information Center, at the request of Touma-Sliman and MK Hanin Zoabi, the unemployment rate among Arab women stems from a low labor supply, flawed public transportation and social barriers such as objections to female relatives working, among other reasons.

The study indicated that various programs to promote employment among Israeli Arabs, mainly women, have been ineffective because they provide professional training in areas that are ill-suited to meet the demands of the market, among other reasons.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said, ”People always speak about daycares and public transports in order to make work accessible, but what is wrong with creating workplaces in the communities, such as industrial zones? We would obviously also like busses in order to flow to work. Some Jews do not want to work and receive funds, and there are Arabs who would really like to work but are unable to.”

MK Talab Abu Arar (Joint List) suggested stopping the discussion and beginning to protest. MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) added, ”Focusing on public service reveals the governmental failure. Only now the 2010 objective has been achieved – 10% of workers in the civil service are Arab.”

MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Camp) said, ”The challenge of employing Arab women is a national challenge which has an effect on many fields in Israel. If we know that the status of the female Arab has improved, then we know that Israeli society has improved also.”

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) noted, ”The state of every society is measured by the status of the women, and the key for progression and development is work. One week after the so-called amending speech by the Prime Minister, there are no representatives from the coalition in this discussion. Apparently we need to strive for a concrete decision of the Ministerial Committee on the matter.”

Ron Gerlitz, the co-executive director of Sikkuy-The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, added that ”The discussion focuses on the problem of supply, and less about how to produce demand in the personal work market. If the country wants to promote Arab employment, we must make a change.”

Concluding the discussion, Committee Chairwoman Touma-Sliman said, ”The governmental offices are currently preparing their plans and budgets for the upcoming year. We see that the offices do not utilize all their budgets in favor of advancing the employment of Arab women. If the Ministry of Economy uses only 28% [of the budget] and the Ministry of Health only seven out of twenty million, then we clearly have a failure.”

”We must develop a plan, coordinating all of the government offices, which will share information and bring to the opening of a real employment market for female Arabs. It seems that only a decision by the Ministerial Committee will be able to achieve this,” she said.