Israel: Government Programs Address Arab Underemployment

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By Jenny David

Aug. 27—Israeli programs designed to better integrate Arabs into the workforce, such as the creation of government employment centers in the Arab sector, have been praised by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as a means to “help create a more skilled workforce that can climb the economic ladder.”

‘Key Route Out of Poverty'

The OECD report called skills “a key route out of poverty” but said that many disadvantaged groups in Israel “have levels of skills attainment well below that of the mainstream Jewish population.” New Arab employment centers have been successful, but an “integrated approach” is necessary for further progress.

The report urged the Israeli government to strengthen professional training and career guidance and the connection between the Arab education system and the labor market and called for the promotion of entrepreneurship and investment incentives to reduce employment gaps between the Arab and Jewish sectors and for greater emphasis on job quality over quantity.

Strengthening public transportation to Arab areas and improving “access to affordable child care” could also have a major impact on Arab employment, especially among women, only about 28 percent of whom currently work, according to the report.

‘Enhancing Employment Opportunities'

Overall, Arab participation in the Israeli workforce stands at 52 percent, compared to 66 percent for the general population.

In response to the report, Economy Minister Arye Deri said “inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs in the labor market is at the top” of his ministry's agenda. “Enhancing employment opportunities leverages an increase in growth and strengthens the economy, as well as, of course, strengthening and empowering the employees in the ultra-Orthodox and Arab societies.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Jerusalem at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

The OECD report is available at

For more information on Israeli HR law and regulation, see the Israel primer.