Hede: Arabs, the Israeli civil service needs you
Sub: It's incumbent upon the government to increase Arab representation in the civil service, the public sector and among government contractors, and there are several ways they can do it.
It recently became clear that the government will not meet its own target of having Israeli-Arabs comprise 10 percent of the civil service coming by the end of this year.
Today, there are 4,982 Arabs working in Israel's civil service, or only 7.8 percent of the total civil service employees, according to the 2011 report Representation of the Arab Population in the Civil Service from the Civil Service Commission. According to that report, last year there was only a 0.25 percent increase in the number of Arab applicants accepted into the Civil Service. Additionally, more than 85 percent of Arab civil servants are employed across just six government ministries and subsidiary bodies, where they provide services to the Arab public.
In the rest of the ministries, the representation of Arabs ranges from marginal to nearly zero.
The report, published in June 2012 for government-owned corporations, found that the rate of Arab directors at government-run companies is actually on the decline.
Only 8 percent of government corporation directors are Arab, 5 percent being Arab men and 3 percent Arab women. In contrast, 41 percent are by Jewish women.
The report also noted that a full 35 percent of government-owned company directorships are currently vacant. If the government was truly serious about increasing its minority representation at the helms of its companies, there is ample opportunity to do so immediately. And there is no shortage of Arab professionals who would be interested in being appointed to these positions.
The Civil Service Commission's report didn't address the percentage of Arab employees in government-owned corporations, but we can also estimate that Arab-Israeli citizens in these companies do not constitute more than 3 percent of total employees.
Over the course of the last decade, there has been a public debate in Israel over the representation of ethnic, national, cultural and gender minorities in public service. Despite a handful of laws and a slew of government decisions, there is still a yawning gap between public policy declarations and their implantation into actual practice.
There are several ways the government can tackle this issue. It can give preference to Arab businesspeople and Arab-owned companies when it comes to doling out government tenders, and not just those reserved for providing services to the Arab community. The government could also put a condition on its acceptance of bids for tenders from private bodies, public nonprofits or statutory bodies, making them contingent upon a guarantee of hiring a certain percentage of Arab workers.
To take the last step even further, the privatization or outsourcing of government projects or the doling out of government grants could also be conditional based on a guarantee of adequate representation of Arabs among the competing bodies.
It's critical that the government implement laws guaranteeing adequate representation in the civil service and in government-owned corporations. They can follow the path of other countries such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and ensure that parties receiving government contracts present affirmative action plans and provide adequate representation to underprivileged sectors of the population.
Within the basis provided by the Mandatory Tender Law and the regulations instituted following its enactment, the government has the power to make its tenders conditional upon a guarantee of minority representation. But even with this law and others, there is also some room for adjustment.
In order promote substantive change and to close the gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel, we need for simultaneous action on different levels and in different areas. A guarantee of adequate representation for minorities in government contacts can promote swift, massive change across the breadth of the state, at all levels of business. It can promote a shift in employer consciousness and to ensure diversity and multiculturalism in workplaces.
Ali Haider is a co-executive director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.
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