Study: Workforce Participation of Ethiopian Men Dropped to 46%

Although they are no longer new immigrants and have spent years in the education system, the rate of Ethiopian men who go to work is decreasing.

According to a study by the Brookdale Institute, 63 percent of Ethiopian men aged 22 to 64 were employed in 1995. A decade later this dropped to 46 percent, according to the report, presented earlier this week at a conference on the employment of Ethiopian immigrants.

Among the general Jewish population of men the same age, 79 percent are in the workforce.

At the same time, there has been an increase in the rate of women who are employed, from 23 percent a decade ago to 42 percent in 2005.

The decrease in Ethiopian men working is particularly sharp among men over 45, reflecting the growing difficulties of nonprofessional workers in Israel. About a quarter of Ethiopian immigrants are employed in nonprofessional jobs, compared with only 7 percent of the overall working Jewish population. Among women, this rate is 33 percent compared with 7 percent.

The unemployment rate among Ethiopian immigrants is also much higher than that of the general Jewish population: about 18 percent in 2005 compared with 10 percent. About 22 percent of the women were unemployed that year, and 15 percent of the men.

According to Daniel Adamso, head of the Association for Ethiopian Jews, professional training programs are among the key elements to integrate Ethiopian immigrants into the workforce. But these are rarely carried out.

As opposed to the low employment rates among nonprofessional immigrants, the rate of university-educated Ethiopians who are employed is higher than that of the general Jewish university-educated population - 77 percent versus 71 percent. However, only 44 percent of them hold positions fitting their education, compared with 61 percent of all Jewish university graduates. Adamso counts employers' prejudice regarding the immigrants' skills as a reason for this.

During the last decade the government made five decisions designed to integrate Ethiopian immigrants into government service. Still, only 1.1 percent of government workers are Ethiopian immigrants. The goal is to increase this rate to 1.5 percent, equal to their proportion in the general population.

Ayanawo Farada Sanbetu reports: Ethiopian Kes spiritual leaders and their widows are to submit a class action suit against the state through Attorney Alexander Spinder. The spiritual leaders want their salaries to be equal to those of rabbis and to receive back pay for past salaries.

During the last two years the Kesim have asked both the prime minister and the head of religious services to equate the salaries, but nothing has been done. The Committee for Immigration and Absorption has also had many meetings on this issue.