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Employers Prejudiced Against Hareidi Men, Arabs, Working Mothers

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission survey reveals gender, religious discrimination. But is it due to change?
By Shlomo Pitrikovsky
First Publish: 3/30/2014, 12:01 PM

Facing discrimination?
Facing discrimination?
Flash 90

A survey of employers and employees, commissioned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reveals disturbing data about the willingness employees and employers in Israel employ various workers to work alongside them.

The survey was conducted among 500 respondents, a representative sample of the adult Jewish population and Hebrew speakers. The results, which were revealed Sunday, note that politics have a considerable impact on the type of person employers are willing to hire.

Half of respondents (46%), both employers and employees, expressed reluctance to work with Arab men. 30% of respondents expressed reluctance to work with a hareidi man, and 28% are reluctant to work with educated Arab women. 

Employers show particular prejudice, according to the survey. 42% of employers showed reluctance to employ Arab men; over a third of employers (37%) expressed a reluctance to employ hareidi men; and 13% of employers were unwilling to employ married women with small children from any sector. 

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for ageism. The majority of respondents - 93% of employers and 95% of workers - have no problem or even prefer to work with women over the age of 50. 

EEOC: Israeli Society Due for a Change

The survey was conducted ahead of the Commission's "motivating equality" convention, being held Monday. As the results went to publication, senior officials from the EEOC noted that the data shows a dire need to take action. 

"The survey data raises serious questions about the attitudes of the public in general and employers in particular," Tziona Koenig-Yair, an EEOC official at the Economics Ministry, stated Sunday. "Though half of survey participants are women and most of the participants are married or had been married before, there was a high resistance to employ women with children and we saw worrying wage disparities between men and women." 

She added that despite the fact that most respondents have completed a higher education, much of the employers' decisions are based on prejudices rather than experience - especially regarding hareidi and Arab men. 

"The EEOC is fighting these prejudices to allow equal opportunity for all populations in the Israeli labor market," she continued. "Unless we learn to unleash the potential of Israeli labor market, we will lose, because over the years we have seen a severe shortage of good workers."

Politicians push to change the workforce

The data reveals that long-held prejudices in the Israeli workforce will take time to change, despite the efforts of some politicians - namely Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) - to help working mothers and hareidi men advance in the labor market. 

Over the past year, Bennett has pushed forward several proposals in the Knesset to advance the needs of both populations, including the addition of incentives for employers to hire women and a general push to integrate hareidi men into the IDF and workforce. 

According to another recent poll, the employment rate for hareidi Israelis is 44.5%, far lower than the 67% average for the country overall. Much of that unemployment has to do with the tendency among hareidi men to shun higher education, national service and employment in favor of full-time Torah studies, placing those who eventually wish to enter the workforce at a distinct disadvantage to other candidates.

Despite this, the government's efforts to make the hareidi community more employable may be working; officials are expecting the hareidi workforce to grow by 30,000 by 2020.

Under the hareidi draft law, approximately 23,000 hareidi Israelis who have not served in the IDF will be eligible to seek work in the coming months, officials added.