39% of Israeli Arabs Feel Discriminated Against in Job Market, Poll Shows

Bigger effort must be invested in giving weaker groups their basic rights in the workforce, says outgoing equal employment opportunity chief.

Arab Israelis lining up at the employment bureau in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Emil Salman

Thirty-nine percent of the Arabs in Israel's workforce say they feel their ethnicity hurts their chances of getting a job, and 34 percent say they feel that being Arab has prevented them from getting promoted, according to new survey by the Economy Ministry.

The survey was conducted three months ago by the ministry’s Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities, with a sample of 770 Israeli Arabs.

According to the figures obtained by Haaretz, 21 percent of Arab respondents claim that their identity impaired their relationships with other workers, supervisors, clients or customers.

“To inculcate equality, especially in these difficult times, cooperation is needed between stakeholders and employers,” said Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair, who is leaving her post at the ministry after eight years.

“The main challenge in the coming years is to increase enforcement, especially regarding weaker groups whose ability to achieve their basic rights in the workforce is limited,” she added.

The figures also showed that 38 percent of Arab workers who are employed part-time wanted to work more but could not find full-time jobs.

In professions requiring internships, such as law, medicine and accounting, 32 percent of Arabs found positions only after a period of six months to two years. About 10 percent were unable to find an internship position, and gave up on the idea of working in their profession.

“It is clear to us that this situation is not the same as that in the Jewish population," said Hannah Klopfer, the commission’s director of research. "The difficulty in finding work stems from the fact that the applicants are Arab – not that there is no demand.”

The result, Klopfer noted, is that Arab job-seekers “compromise on finding a job and don’t make full use of their skills.”

In terms of wages, Central Bureau of Statistics figures for 2014 show a gap of 41 percent in the average wage between Jewish non-ultra-Orthodox men and Arab Israeli men. Moreover, the data show that a Jewish Israeli man earns an average of 12,208 shekels ($3,157) a month, while an Arab man receives 7,190 shekels. Only 74.3 percent of Arab men are employed, as opposed to 85.9 percent of non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.

The figures also show that every fifth Arab in the workforce is employed by a Jewish person and that in those cases, 22 percent of the respondents said they do not feel accepted at work when tensions rise due to the security situation in the country. In contrast, only 6 percent of those employed by Arabs said they felt that way.

Head-covering bias

Among Arab women workers, 39 percent of those who wear a head covering said they felt discriminated against for this reason when applying for a job; 31 percent said they felt that wearing a hijab hurt their chances of getting promoted.

The Economy Ministry study also showed that more Arab employees who work for Jewish employers receive only the minimum wage. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said that their Arab employees paid them minimum wage, compared to 81 percent for those who worked for Jews.

In another area of basic workplace rights covered by the survey, only 57 percent of Arab employers paid their workers overtime, and only 57 percent deposited money in a pension fund for them, as opposed to 75 percent of Jewish employers who did so.

Klopfer also noted that while Arabs working for Jews feel less accepted and respected than Arabs working for Arabs, a large percentage of Arab employers do not give their Arab employees their basic rights.

The survey also shows that complaints of ethnic discrimination in the workplace are on the rise. In 2013, such complaints constituted 3 percent of all job-related claims that were filed, and in 2015 they rose to 9 percent of the total.