Israel: Workplace Discrimination Complaints Skyrocket in 2015

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Aug. 4--Complaints of workplace discrimination based on ethnic origin, race and gender skyrocketed in the first half of 2015, according to the Economy Ministry's Equal Opportunities in Employment Commission.

Complaints related to Jewish ethnic origins rose by 137 percent, complaints of anti-Arab discrimination increased by 121 percent and complaints of gender discrimination grew by 64 percent, said the report, obtained by Bloomberg BNA July 30.

The Economy Ministry called the rise “consistent with issues on the public agenda” and its own increased enforcement efforts.

“Discrimination due to race, ethnic origin and religion is prohibited by law, and we are turning to employers to encourage tolerance and leadership rather than exclusion and discrimination,” EEOC Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair said. “The number of complaints based on race shows we still have a long road ahead to fulfill the vision of implementing equality.”

At the same time, the first six months of 2015 saw a 70 percent drop in complaints related to religion, a 26 percent drop in complaints of age discrimination and a 27 percent drop in complaints related to pregnancy compared to the same period in 2014.

Independent Study Confirms Ethiopian Earning Gap

The ministry's findings were corroborated by a recent study showing that the gross household income of Ethiopian-Israelis is 35 percent lower than the Israeli national average despite the great strides made by younger members of the community in employment and education since their mass airlift to Israel in 1984 and 1991.

According to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, Ethiopian-Israeli households in 2013 showed an average gross monthly income of 11,453 shekels ($3,045) compared to a national average of 17,711 shekels ($4,710). And although far more Ethiopian-Israelis aged 25-54 were working between 2009 and 2011, their 72 percent employment rate still lags behind the 79 percent rate for the Jewish population as a whole.

The increase in working women was particularly marked, rising from 35 percent in the 1998-2000 period to 65 percent from 2009-2011. A growing number of Ethiopian-Israelis have also moved from part-time into full-time positions, the study found.

Gaps in workplace integration are shrinking, particularly among those who were born in Israel or moved to Israel as young children, but are not about to disappear altogether, the Taub researchers said, noting the difficulties faced by the community's older and Ethiopian-born members.

Approximately half of working women and 17 percent of working men who were born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel after age 12 worked in cleaning or kitchen services between 2006 and 2011, a much higher proportion than in the general Israeli Jewish population, and even those in other fields tend to work in the lower paid and lower status positions.

“For example, many Ethiopian Israelis with an academic degree who are categorized as working in 'occupations requiring a high skill level’ have chosen careers as social workers and teachers, where the wages are relatively low,” the Taub Center reported. By contrast, “the rate of high school graduates among those who were educated in Israel is about 90 percent, a similar rate to the rest of the Jewish population.”

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