Study: Israeli Arabs Have a Hard Time Finding Suitable Jobs

Far more Israeli Arabs than Jews are employed in jobs that do not fit their education.

Tomer Appelbaum

The chances that an Israeli Arab will be hired when he has less education than required for the job are 400 percent lower than those of an Israeli Jew. On the other hand, the chances that an Israeli Arab will be hired for work for which he has more education than required is about 25 percent higher than the parallel figure for Jews.

This is the result of a study recently completed by the Israel Democracy Institute. Dr. Sami Miari, one of the researchers, says that the findings “point to the fact that Israeli Arabs are employed at a higher rate in jobs that do not suit their education.”

Previous studies examined the mechanisms behind the income inequality between Arabs and Jews, such as differences in education, unemployment rates or participation in the job market. The new study, which is based on manpower surveys and income surveys of the Central Bureau of Statistics, which included almost 90,000 households, tried to focus on the incompatibility between education and employment – and its effect on the income disparities among various social groups in Israel.

The two key terms in the study are “underqualified” – a situation in which a person has a lower educational level than required for the profession in which he is employed, and “overqualified” – the opposite situation, in which the worker has more education than required for his profession.

According to Miari, being underqualified is usually considered a positive situation, since it means that the person has in effect succeeded in advancing on the social ladder relative to his education, and again at a later stage – in the transition between acquiring an education and finding work. On the other hand, when someone is overqualified he has difficulty finding work suited to his education, and was therefore forced to make do with work that usually demands a lower level of education.

The study also indicates that where the worker has less education than is usual in his workplace (underqualified), an Israel Arab who is employed in the same job as a Jewish worker will earn about 12 percent less. In the opposite case, where both of those employed at the same job have more education than is usual in the workplace (overqualified), the Arab worker will earn less than his Jewish colleague: For example, a fully qualified Arab engineer who is employed as a practical engineer will earn 15 percent less for his superior training than a Jew in the same situation.

“The figures point to a failure in integrating Israeli Arabs into the job market,” says Miari. “More and more Arab citizens are going out to study professions and to acquire academic degrees, but they hit a wall when they tried to be hired for suitable work.”

The government recommendations appended to the study include incentives for employers, promoting employment opportunities within Arab communities and investment in the Arab education system, “which in any case suffers from large gaps in terms of budgets and quality when compared to the Jewish system. This should be done in order to create an infrastructure than will enable the absorption of Arab citizens in places of work that are commensurate with their education.”