Arab-Israeli women are minimizing gaps in academic achievements, though still lag behind in employment, according to a Taub Center study released on Sunday.
“We decided to publish a brief that deals with the education and employment of Arab Israeli women in preparation for International Women’s Day and in light of the government goals to promote the Arab Israeli population in the coming years,” said Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss.
“Alongside improving trends, there are problematic areas and barriers facing Arab Israeli women, who could be a significant source of growth in the Israeli economy in the coming years. Therefore it is very important to pay attention to this topic,” he said.
According to the study, Arab Israeli women have significantly improved their academic achievements at the high school level, are more successful than Arab Israeli men, and are approaching the achievements of Jewish Israeli women.
In examining the percentage of women eligible for a matriculation certificate, the study found that the gaps that exist between Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli women can be attributed to the former's low socioeconomic status.
When controlling for socioeconomic background, the rate of matriculation eligibility among Arab Israeli women is even higher than that of Jewish women.
Additionally, the study found that many Arab Israeli women choose to study science and engineering majors in high schools - subjects associated with a potential for high future wages. Over 70% of Arab Israeli women who qualify for a matriculation certificate study these majors, compared with only 39% of Jewish women.
Similarly, the study found that the enrollment of Arab Israeli women in higher education institutions rose significantly between 2008 and 2013.
However, despite this increase, large gaps still remain: in 2014 some 50% of Jewish and Arab Christian women aged 30-33 held an academic degree, though only 23% of Muslim women held an academic degree, and only 19% of Druze and 16% of Bedouin women.
The study also found that despite the large portion of Arab Israeli women majoring in science in high school (aside from chemistry and biology), the share of those who continue to study those fields in higher education is, 21% among Arab Christians, 22% among Druze, and only 9% among Muslim women, compared to 31% among Jewish women.
Instead, many Arab-Israelis are pursuing degrees in education - 42% of Muslim women and 46% of Bedouin women, compared to only 16% of Jewish women – a field saturated with workers characterized by lower wages.
As such, the improvement in educational achievements is to date, not evidenced when examining employment statistics, the report found.
The rise in the employment rate of Arab Israeli women aged 25-54 is not as high as expected: from 21% in 2000 to 35% in 2016, compared with a similar increase among Jewish women that brought their employment rates to 80%. Among Arab Israeli women with an academic degree, the employment rate stands at about 75% and has not changed much over the past decade.
“The low employment rate among all Arab Israeli women is surprising given their improvements in the realm of education. The employment rate in the 25-64 age group was 34% in 2017, which is still far from the target rate set by the government for 2020 – 41%," said the study's authors Researcher Hadas Fuchs and Tamar Friedman-Wilson.
As such, the study concluded that a more balanced distribution of fields of study and employment among Arab Israeli women would likely lead to better integration into the labor market and is a potential source of growth for the Israeli economy in the coming years.