One of the hardest challenges facing activists fighting gender inequality is coming up with quantifiable proof of the extent of the injustice. Many who have never experienced gender inequality think of it as a subjective experience, something that cannot be shown with hard facts. Yet the Van Leer Institute’s Shavot, The Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere on Tuesday unveiled an index it has prepared over the past two years that purports to measure gender inequality in Israel.
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The index shows that between 2004 and 2011 inequality in Israel worsened, though there was improvement in some areas.
The only area boasting constant improvement is education: In 2011, 45.6 percent of women completed high school, versus 43 percent of men.
Dr. Hagar Tzameret-Kertcher, a sociologist and economist who designed the index, said: “Most people who do not specialize in the field of gender inequality assume that the direction is constant improvement. When I tried to imagine the source of this assumption, I understood it was because of the past, when women were in a more difficult condition, and therefore people assume inertia. Still, at the moment there is a stalemate, the process of increasing equality is stuck. In effect, developed countries assume that the gaps have closed and there is no further need for measurements.”
Throughout the years studied there was a steady rise in the proportion of women in the workforce, from 49.6 percent to 52.6 percent, compared with 60.6 percent to 62.3 percent among men. Still, other parameters are worrying, such as the large number of women holding part-time jobs or being employed as contract workers in comparison to men. This "reflects gender roles which still call for women to assume most of the responsibility for raising children and household chores."
Women earn two-thirds as much as men
The gap in earnings remained practically constant in the years covered by the index, with women earning between 63-66 percent of men’s average salary. In 2010 women earned an average monthly gross of NIS 6,386 compared to men’s NIS 9,720. The gap between the average monthly income of men and women is higher than the gap between the average hourly pay, since the gap encompasses also the difference between full and part time jobs. In 2011 men made an average NIS 53 per hour, in comparison to NIS 44 per hour earned by women.
Tzameret-Kertcher believes that one of the main problems of integrating women to the workforce is that they are still held responsible for most household chores. "Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term 'the Second Shift', saying that women entered the workforce, but men did not enter the work at home."
The index revealed that women in high-tech jobs constitute 34-35 percent of the workforce, a percentage that remained constant during several years.
Another important finding was that there has been a steady rise in the number of women being helped by Social Affairs Ministry centers dealing with domestic violence. This data reflects a rise in the number of centers, but also a rise in the cases of family violence in Israel, in which women are mostly the victims.
As for gender inequality in the Arab population, Tzameret-Kertcher said the gaps are larger and the changes smaller, but the trend is the opposite of that found in Jewish society, and in recent years the gaps have slightly decreased.
The new index measures gender inequality in eight areas: workforce, violence against women, Arab sector, peripheral areas, incidence of poverty, level of education, political arena and health care. For each area a number of indicators were chosen to measure inequality, and these measurements were compared over time, between 2004-2011.
The index is the first to be specially adapted for economically developed societies. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) gender inequality index examines developing countries, but not the organization’s 34 member states. Tzameret-Kertcher believes that in more progressive countries measurements are not taken because nothing is seen as needing correction.
She says that existing indexes are not suited to developed countries since they examine areas that do not characterize the gender problems in such societies, focusing, for example, on comparisons of birth rates of boys and girls.