While 86% of managers in Israeli industry think there are worthy Arab candidates for management positions, 73% admit they prefer not to employ them. Middle managers, including human resources execs, are more in favor of hiring Arabs than CEOs.

These statistics come from a survey of 188 industrial firms conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 by Kav Mashve - Employers' Coalition for Equality for Arab University Graduates, the Manufacturers Association and Naftali Leder of LotemSensing.

The survey found Jewish employers had two main explanations for not hiring Arab college graduates: "I am not sure an Arab employee would integrate into the company and get along with other employees," and "I never receive resumes from Arab applicants."

Most of the businesses surveyed were medium and large firms with more than 50 employees. Two-thirds of the businesses surveyed were in traditional industries, 5% were in high-tech, and 6% were in services. The survey was intended to examine manufacturers' views on hiring Arab college graduates, in order to improve matters.

A total of 41% of the businesses do not employ any Arab college graduates, while at another 55%, Arab college graduates make up less than 20% of the workforce. A total of 80% employ no female Arab college graduates, all, while Arab women make up less than 20% of employees at the other firms.

The majority of the businesses said they have no Arabs in senior management positions.

The managers are aware that the Arab sector may view companies that hire Arab workers as being "socially responsible," and that these firms would enjoy an advantage in the Arab market as well as gain from quality workers and diversity. But 77% of those surveyed still expressed worries about employing Arabs.

The biggest barriers to employing Arab college graduates, managers said, were the limited work hours of Arab women, the poor chances of integration into the workplace due to cultural differences, and coworkers' responses. In addition, poor Hebrew language skills, fear of political arguments, fear of a lack of relevant skills, customer reactions and the physical distance from Arab locales - most Arabs live in the north - were also mentioned as significant barriers.

The most effective ways of improving the situation include developing offices near Arab population centers, clear policies promoting the hiring of Arabs, and training workers to meet employers' needs, the managers said.

Other recommendations included running seminars to promote multi-cultural workplaces, government subsidies, creating a positive public atmosphere for hiring Arabs, and emphasizing the business advantages.