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State of Arabs employment is ‘grim, alarming,’ Shapira says

Comptroller says government-level discrimination is crippling state’s own ‘ineffective’ integration efforts

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli Bedouin women working at a Bezeq customer service center on July 27, 2015. The call center is located in a mosque, in the Arab town of Hura. The women have been employed through the Rayan employment center in Rahat. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli Bedouin women working at a Bezeq customer service center on July 27, 2015. The call center is located in a mosque, in the Arab town of Hura. The women have been employed through the Rayan employment center in Rahat. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Pervasive government discrimination is responsible for the “grim and alarming” state of employment in Arab Israeli community, a state comptroller’s report published Tuesday found.

In his annual report, Yosef Shapira branded recent government efforts to integrate Arabs into the workforce as “broken, ineffective and deficient,” charging that “the goals set by the government to promote employment equality and promote integration of the Arab sector are not being met.”

Furthermore, the report found, the Arab community “suffers from ongoing discrimination.”

“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,” it said.

The report examined 10 major government-owned companies and found that Arab workers were significantly underrepresented. It said that Arab employees of Israel Ports in 2015 were fewer than 0.7 percent, while Israel Natural Gas Lines reported an Arab employment rate of 0%.

“And when it comes to managerial positions, in some of these corporations there is not even a single Arab in management,” the report said.

It noted the disproportion in the percentage of employed working-age Arabs, 50.5%, and the far higher 78% employment rate of their Jewish counterparts.

Additionally, the report said that Israeli Arabs typically earned “significantly less” than Jewish Israelis earn for similar jobs.

Shapira criticized various government initiatives aimed at tackling the issue, citing a lack of long-term planning, financial mismanagement and little oversight.

“In three of the last five years, only 28% percent of the budget allocated for such programs was used to implement the initiatives,” Shapira noted.

The report further found that Arab Israelis face numerous obstacles in finding work in a Jewish environment: prejudice on the part of employers, poor knowledge of Hebrew, and a shortage of daycare centers in Arab cities that results a reduced number of women joining the workforce.

Shapira did conclude by praising a five-year plan to encourage economic growth in Arab communities that was approved by the Knesset in 2015. But, he warned, “the real test for the government now is how it will implement these measures in practice.”

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