Walid bin Karim, a young architect looking for work at an architecture firm owned by Jews, is the star of a new ad by the Government Advertising Bureau. The spot encourages the employment of Arab college graduates. “What’s wrong with an Israeli Arab in your office?” asks the ad. It provides the answer: Nothing’s wrong.
But Israeli Arabs, who make up 22 percent of the population, suffer from exclusion and discrimination. Nowhere does this discrimination stand out more than among college graduates. Only 1.3 percent of Arabs who graduate in high-tech fields find work in their specialties, despite claims by high-tech leaders that they are desperate for workers. Most of these Arab college graduates are forced to compromise and work as teachers.
There is no doubt that the Israeli economy discriminates against Arab workers. Research by the Bank of Israel shows that not hiring Arabs costs the economy NIS 31 billion a year in lost production. On top of that, we must add the growing frustration of a community that is progressing, acquiring education and wants to integrate − only to discover that all doors are locked.
The government did the right thing in investing to encourage the hiring of Arab college graduates. The state also subsidizes the wages of Arab workers, but that’s not enough. To really change the relationship between the Jewish employer and the Arab worker, the largest employer in the country must serve as an example.
This means the government, which in 2007 set targets for employing Arabs − but has failed to meet its own goals. The target was to have Arabs make up 10 percent of state employees by 2012; this wasn’t a particularly ambitious goal because Arabs make up twice that percentage of the population. It’s already 2012 and only 8 percent of state employees are Arabs.
Over the past year, the government has increased its efforts to hire Arab workers. Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan told ministries four months ago they could not hire new workers until they met the quotas set for Arab employees. This is an important step − we must make sure the government carries it out.
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