Arab Mom of Toddler? Forget It / Employers Decry Bias Only in Word, Not Deed

Mothers with small children, Arabs, Ethiopian immigrants and older workers are the four groups that face the worst discrimination in the labor market. Both workers and employers agree that such discrimination exists, according to a new survey.

The commission for equal opportunities at work, headed by Tziona Koenig-Yair, will hold its annual conference today and present the results of the survey conducted with the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.

Ziona Koenig-Yair
Emil Salman

Older workers face the most discrimination, 82% of employers agreed in the poll. More than 70% of employers agreed that the other three groups face very discriminatory policies.

There is also agreement that two other groups face similar discrimination: women and the ultra-Orthodox. But there is no clear evidence or agreement on labor discrimination against three other communities: immigrants from the former Soviet Union, people who serve in the reserves and Jews from Middle Eastern backgrounds.

It isn't that they 'favor discrimination'

This does not mean employers spoke in favor of such discrimination. When asked, most said older workers have just as much to contribute to their business as younger ones; they added that Israeli Arabs deserve equal rights. But when their views were examined indirectly, for example, by studying the various barriers to employment, it turned out that such barriers exist.

Most employers object to government intervention requiring the hiring of any specific group, and the vast majority do not receive any advice on equal employment and do not have any official policies on the matter.

While employers overwhelmingly claim they support equal opportunity, when it comes to hiring, the truth is quite different. For example, 70% of employers don't see any advantage in hiring workers from diverse backgrounds and 61% hire based on personal acquaintance, a situation that almost always means hiring people of a similar background.

As an example of how employers can discriminate unintentionally or indirectly, just over 50% said their employees needed to work many hours of overtime, a difficult condition for mothers of small children.

This means that in addition to agreeing that discrimination pervades the workplace, employers are perpetuating this discrimination with their demands from employees. This keeps Arabs, older workers, women with small children, Haredim and Ethiopian immigrants out of the workforce.

The survey shows that employers are aware of the barriers, said Koenig-Yair, but it also reveals that they are not up to speed on equal employment opportunities: Only 20% receive professional advice on the matter and only 7% have a written policy.

Koenig-Yair said the commission is available to employers and can help them put together plans to advance equal opportunity and provide legal advice or any other help as needed. The commission will conduct similar surveys annually to monitor progress.