Israel: Arab Employment Discrimination Rises

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by Jenny David

Aug. 12—Complaints of ethnic discrimination in the Israeli workplace surged by 146 percent last year, according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission's 2015 annual report.

Much of the increase results from immigrant Ethiopians being more willing to speak up following social protests in early 2015.

Complaints based on gender and nationality also increased, by 29 and 23 percent respectively, the EEOC reported, noting that Arab employees in particular “suffer from increasing difficulties in keeping their jobs.” The report attributed this trend to the repercussions of a 2014 military operation against Gaza and a more recent wave of Arab terror attacks in Israel.

‘Not a Single Arab'

According to Israel's State Comptroller, however, pervasive government discrimination is principally responsible for the worsening trend in Arab employment.

Recent government efforts to integrate Arabs into the workforce are “broken, ineffective and deficient,” State Comptroller Yosef Shapira said in his latest annual report, charging that “the goals set by the government to promote employment equality and promote integration of the Arab sector are not being met.”

“Despite Israel's commitment to uphold substantive equality between all its citizens regardless of religion, race or gender, the findings of this report paint a grim and alarming picture of the employment situation among Israel's Arab population,” the report said.

The report found that Arab workers were significantly underrepresented in government-owned companies and that “when it comes to managerial positions, in some of these corporations, there is not a single Arab in management.”

It also noted that only 50.5 percent of working-age Arabs are employed, compared to 78 percent of Jews, and that Israeli Arabs generally earn “significantly less” than their Jewish counterparts for similar jobs.

The comptroller's report also said it is difficult for Israeli Arabs to find work in a Jewish environment because of employers' prejudice, poor Hebrew language skills and a shortage of Arab day care centers that especially hinders work by Arab women.

While praising a five-year plan to encourage economic growth in Arab communities that Israel's parliament approved in 2015, Shapira warned that “the real test will be in how the government implements these measures.”

Inclusion, Integration the ‘Main Challenge'

“The ability to include and integrate all population sectors” is the Israeli labor market's “main challenge,” EEOC Commissioner Mariam Kabaha said in submitting her report to Prime Minister and Economy Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu then called on employers “to incorporate excluded populations in order to reduce social gaps.”

“Labor market diversity is important to both society and the economy,” he said.

The EEOC said in a statement that it will launch Israel's first business variety index in the coming months. The index will chart the representation and average salaries of multiple populations subject to labor market exclusion and discrimination, aiming to improve efforts to address the gaps.

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

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

For More Information

The Comptroller's report is available in Hebrew here.

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

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