Earnings of Men in Jerusalem Are 53% of Their Counterparts in Tel Aviv, Study Finds

The city's large ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Arab populations gives its workforce a profile that is unique in Israel.

Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

The past eight months have not been easy for Jerusalem, which beginning in October faced a wave of terrorism, but its socioeconomic situation was not simple even before the latest round of violence.

Employment data contained in the 30th annual report of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality reveal, for example, that average wages are lower than in Israel’s other major cities.

In fact, men in Jerusalem earn on average just 53% of their counterparts in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem’s highly heterogeneous population makes the economic situation particularly complex, and employment participation of city residents is about 20% lower than in Israel as a whole.

The institute’s study was carried out in an effort to look at the characteristics of the various population groups living side by side in the city. The findings reflect a city where employment is centered around three distinct and separate sectors: its Arab population, its ultra-Orthodox Jewish population and what might be termed its general population.

The general population has the best socioeconomic situation. It is followed by the Haredi population. Largely as a result of its high birthrate and relatively low employment levels, especially for men, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community suffers from high rates of poverty.

And finally, there is the Arab population, whose overall socioeconomic status is the lowest of the three.

Average salaries in Jerusalem are lower than in Israel’s other major cities, the study found, with adult males in Jerusalem earning an average of 7,672 shekels ($1,995) per month, about half of their counterparts in Tel Aviv.

On average, women in Jerusalem earn about 1,000 shekels less than male Jerusalemites do. When the figures are expressed in hourly wages, however, it turns out that women generally earn more per hour than men do. Women in the city (based on 2013 figures) earn an average of 45.40 shekels an hour while men earn 43.40 shekels.

Low hourly wage

The reason for the disparity is that a large number of male employees in the city are Palestinian Arab residents of East Jerusalem whose hourly average wage is relatively low. And, it should be added, the number of Palestinian women who live in the city who are employed is not even significant.

In addition a large number of female Jerusalemites work part-time, which means that their monthly wages are lower even if their hourly wage is relatively high.

Interestingly, the average wage of salaried female employees in Jerusalem is closer to their male counterparts than is the case in other places around the country. In Jerusalem, women earn 87% of what men do, while it Tel Aviv, they earn 63%; in Haifa 59% and in Israel as a whole 68%.

Compared to data from 2009, women in Jerusalem and in Israel as a whole have been coming closer to wages earned by men, but in Haifa and Tel Aviv, the percentages have gone in the opposite direction.

The narrower disparity between wages of men and women in Jerusalem can be explained by the city’s high poverty rate — meaning that many men also earn low wages. On the other hand, employment levels are high for Haredi women in the capital.

“The [relative] equality is not the result of high wages paid women,” noted Maya Choshen, who is co-director of the Jerusalem research cluster at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, “but rather the low salaries of men. I would have been happy if the women’s wages were as high as men’s rather than in Jerusalem, where men’s wages are as low as women’s,” she said wryly.

Arab women in Jerusalem have the lowest rate of employment, with only 18% of this group between the ages of 25 and 64 working outside their homes. That compares to 36% among Arab women in Israel as a whole.

But by contrast, fully 83% of Jerusalem’s male Arab residents in the same age group are employed, giving them the highest rate of workforce participation in the city.

The researchers also found that among Jewish residents of the city, women had a higher employment participation rate, at 79%, than men, at 70%.

It is worth noting in this regard, that Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox population is large. Traditionally, Haredi men engage in full-time religious study and do not work, although this has been changing around the country.

“Strengthening Jerusalem from the employment standpoint, but not only from this standpoint, requires a change in policy and requires an investment of resources, personnel and public attention,” said Choshen. She added that special priority must be paid in this context to Haredi men and Arab women in the city.