Israeli Drive to Hire More Arabs Leads to 500 Jobs

The drive to bring more Israeli Arabs into the workforce and provide better jobs comes as Israel’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in decades

A high-tech office in Nazareth.
A high-tech office in Nazareth. Ofer Vaknin

A joint initiative between the government and Israel’s biggest employers to hire more Israeli Arabs at big companies – where pay, career opportunities and conditions are typically better – saw more than 500 people taken on in 2016.

The results of the Collective Impact campaign, which includes companies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, food maker Osem, Coca Cola Israel and law and accounting firms, were represented to President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony at the President’s Residence, where Rivlin said his initial skepticism about the drive turned out to be wrong.

“In our first meetings there were only Jewish executives present. Today there are senior Arab executives here,” he said. “In the past year and a half since you, the CEOs, took the task upon yourselves it’s become a visible success. Many companies have undergone a revolution.”

With Arabs accounting for a fifth of Israel’s population, the Bank of Israel says that 55 percent of them live below the poverty line and are less likely than Jews to hold a job, especially among women. Arab men on average earn half of what Jewish men make.

But more Israeli Arabs are completing university and the government is acting to remove barriers to employment. The drive to bring more Israeli Arabs into the workforce and provide better jobs comes as Israel’s unemployment rate is at its lowest in decades and labor shortages have developed in some sectors.

At the seven companies that hired a total of 500 Israelis Arabs last year, Israelis Arabs now comprise 14 percent of their payrolls. In the case of one company, the rate jumped from 6 percent the year before. At many others Israeli Arabs had counted for 1 percent of their payrolls, but over the past year have boosted the rate of between 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent, the Collective Impact report said.

More recent data were even more encouraging, Between April 2016 and June 2017, hiring of Israeli Arabs reached 722, and 200 of them were serving in positions at headquarters or senior management as of the end of June. One employer admitted to having hired just Israeli Arabs with a college degree over the previous decade, and said the company had taken on 33 last year.