The rate of workforce participation among Arab women is only 28 percent, compared to 80 percent for nonreligious Jewish women. The barriers preventing Arab women from looking for work are many, but one of the main ones is their exclusion from the job market. That is what emerges from an analysis published this week by Prof. Eran Yashiv of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, based on new unemployment data generated by changes in how the Central Bureau of Statistics conducts its employment survey.
Yashiv's analysis showed that unemployment in the Arab community is much higher than previously thought. Some 18 percent of Arab women and 11 percent of Arab men are unemployed. The unemployment rate for Arab men is twice that of Jewish men, and that of Arab women is three times that of Jewish women. All in all, Arabs account for 30 percent of Israel's unemployed - some 50 percent higher than their proportion in the general population.
It is not surprising that only 28 percent of Arab women even attempt to find work if 18 percent won't find it in any case. The low probability of finding a job creates a barrier that causes many women to give up in advance. The significance of the fact that so many women do not find work is that even women with high motivation aren't managing to integrate into the Israeli workforce.
It's possible the problem is related to the limited supply of jobs in the periphery, where most Arab towns are located. But it also seems to be related to the fact that employers are not overly happy to employ them. Or to put it more bluntly, the figures reveal the full extent of discrimination against Arabs in general, and Arab women in particular.
The large number of unemployed Arabs, and in particular of unemployed Arab women, should trouble every Israeli citizen. These harsh figures show that the state must act forcefully to combat discrimination against Arabs in the work place and to encourage companies to hire them. The government should start by setting an example: Today, only 8 percent of government employees are Arabs. That is even less than the goal the state set for itself - 10 percent - and well below their share in the population.
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