COVID-19 Impacted Arab Workers in Israel More Than Jewish Ones, Official Report Shows

When the lockdowns ended, secular Jewish men returned to work relatively quickly, while recovery for Haredi men and Arabs was slower

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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People walk into the office of the Israeli Employment Service, two years ago.
People walk into the office of the Israeli Employment Service, two years ago.Credit: Israeli Employment Service
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

The coronavirus pandemic adversely affected the employment of Israeli Arabs more than Israeli Jews, a new report by the  Employment Service has revealed.

According to the report, the April employment rate among Israeli Arabs fell 11.7 percent compared to the period before the coronavirus hit (from 41.4 percent in January 2020 to 36.5 percent in April), while the drop was 8.4 percent among ultra-Orthodox Jews and 7.2 percent among non-Haredi Jews. Based on statistics from the entire year, it is clear that when the lockdowns ended, non-Haredi Jewish men returned to the workforce relatively quickly, while recovery for Haredi men and Arabs was slower.

“As a state, we have an obligation to work actively to make the full range of tools available to close gaps, with an emphasis on strengthening human capital and encouraging and facilitating employment,” said Employment Service Director Rami Garor.

Even before the crisis, employment rates among Arabs were lower than Jews'. At the start of 2020, 41.4 percent of Arabs were employed, compared to 52.9 percent of Haredim and 66.5 percent of non-Haredi Jews.

Employment Service officials stressed that one shouldn’t look at the entire Arab population as one bloc. Analysis of the data showed that the groups of Arabs with the most difficulty finding work are those who live in East Jerusalem and the Bedouin living in the south. The researchers found that the rise in job seekers among younger workers in East Jerusalem was substantially higher than in any other group, with an increase three times higher than among young Jews and two and a half times the rise of other young Arabs.

Among the Bedouin in the south, some 30 percent of job seekers were chronically unemployed as of the end of April, meaning they’d been out of work for more than two years straight. Except for Christian Arabs, every Arab subgroup has a high rate of chronically unemployed: 10 percent of Druze and Muslim job seekers in the north and center, and 8 percent of job seekers in East Jerusalem.

The study found that Arab men had been relatively more adversely affected than Arab women. The employment rate among Arab men at the end of April was 14 percent less than on the eve of the pandemic, while the employment rate among Arab women had dropped only 7.4 percent. Like Jewish women, Arab women also returned to work at a faster pace than the men, except for Bedouin women and women from East Jerusalem, who typically have lower digital skills.

The Employment Service recommends increasing the number of jobs available to Arabs by improving transportation infrastructure to allow easier commuting, among other things. The researchers also recommend expanding programs to return chronically unemployed Arabs to the workforce, with an emphasis on women as well as people who have low education and skills, are 35 and over, have a disability or have a history of needing social benefits. In addition, they propose offering courses to help Arabs lacking digital skills to acquire them.

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