The government spends more in welfare on the Jewish sector that it does on Arab citizens, even though the Arab population has a higher rate of poverty, according a report issued by the Sikui Association for the Advancement of Equal Opportunity on Thursday.

According to official data examined by Sikui, the state spends an average of NIS 378 on each Jewish citizen and only NIS 246 on each Arab citizen - a discrepancy of 35 percent, although there are three times as many Arab families under the poverty line as Jewish families.

When adding the amount of welfare spent by bodies such as the local authorities, the gap remains the same: The average Jewish resident receives NIS 493 from the state while the average Arab resident receives NIS 328 - a discrepancy of 34 percent.

In general, when a local population lives in poverty, the local authorities are obligated to invest even more funding in welfare needs. However in most cases, local authorities are in such dire financial states themselves and do not have the funding to invest more in their residents.

An "equality index" released by Sikui states that the level of inequality in welfare spending between Jews and Arabs is the most striking of comparisons. The index, which rates complete inequality as 1, currently stands at 0.44. The index takes into account different factors, such as welfare spending as well as employment and poverty rates.

The "employment index," which stands at 0.38, points out another striking inequality, albeit not as severe as welfare. A large percentage of Arabs work in occupations that have a below average income. For example, there are more than four times as many Arabs working in construction than Jews.

According to Yasser Awad, supervisor of proper employment representation for Sikui, the public and private sectors exclude the Arab population from various occupations. These exclusions explain why the sharp rise in education in the Arab sector has not lead to a subsequent rise in employment rates.

Awad notes that Arabs fill only 4 percent of managerial positions, even though the average education level of Arab managers is higher than that of most Jewish managers. "The Arabs are not integrated into key positions. The only explanation for this is that the private and public sectors see the Arabs as a demographic threat, and not an educated and talented source of human capital," said Awad.

An additional problem is that only 39 percent of Arabs have joined the work force, as opposed to 57 percent of Jews. This gap is due to the fact that only 17 percent of Arab women work, as opposed to 55 percent of Jewish women.

According to Awad, there are many ways to improve this situation, such as encouraging employment of Arabs and establishing integrated industrial zones. "Just as the government encouraged the employment of immigrants in the 90s, they can get things done here. We already had one crisis in October 2000, do we really need to wait for the next one?"

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