OECD Study: Immigrants Have Lower Unemployment Rate Than Israeli-born

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New immigrants arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Officials realized that they could encourage more immigration by easing concerns about employment.Credit: Moti Kimche

Israel’s relative success in integrating immigrants is reflected in a new study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union, particularly when it comes to how immigrants fare in the job market. Unlike the norm in the countries studied, immigrants to Israel actually have a lower unemployment rate than native-born Israelis and few feel discriminated against based on their background, the study found.

Since Israel was founded around the ethos of ingathering exiles – the immigration of Jews throughout the world – it is exceptional in the proportion of immigrants in the country. Fully 67.1% of the population are either immigrants or have one parent who was, the study noted, based on data from the period between 2011 and 2014 (depending upon the country). The share of Israelis who themselves were born abroad was found, not surprisingly, to be exceptionally high, as it was in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The OECD, the grouping of the world’s developed countries, including Israel, examined the disparities in unemployment in OECD and EU member countries between immigrants and native-born residents. Among Israelis in the 15-64 age group, not only did native-born residents not have a higher employment rate, but immigrants actually fared slightly better. Among immigrants to Israel the unemployment rate was 5%, while it was 6% among native-born Israelis. By contrast, on average, joblessness was three percentage points higher among immigrants than native-born in OECD countries in general.

The survey also asked immigrants to the EU and OECD countries whether they felt that they belonged to a group that was being discriminated against based on their ethnic background. In Israel, where most immigrants are Jewish and the Law of Return provides automatic citizenship and immigrant benefits to Jewish immigrants and their non-Jewish extended family members, only 4.7% felt discriminated against, compared to 13% of immigrants to Europe who felt so.

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