Issue 10: Obstacles to Employment in Israel
The actual rate of participation in the workforce in Israel is much lower – approximately 57.5% of the population is taking part in the workforce, according to Bank of Israel data.14 This is well below the average participation rate in the workforce in developed countries, which averages 66.1% according to OECD figures.15 As a result, the supply of jobs is limited relative to the demand. This problematic and permanent situation has led to grave consequences in the form of poverty and low salaries among the population participating in the workforce (those employed and unemployed persons actively seeking employment), since there is increased competition for each position.
Please provide up-to-date information on employed persons by occupation, sex and population group since 2005. Please also elaborate upon steps taken to address the following reported obstacles to employment by the Arab Israeli population:
-The use of the military service criterion;
-The limited employment opportunities in towns and villages;
-The shortage of State-run day-care centres for children;
-A near absence of public transportation from towns and villages to central cities.
Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment
As the 2009 State's Report notes, unemployment in Israel declined between the years 1999 and 2007 and it continued to do so dropping from 7.5% in 2009 to 6.6% in 2010.13 However, it should be noted that the unemployment rate does not reflect the participation in the Israeli employment market. The unemployment rate is measured according to the number of jobseekers who actively sought employment during the four weeks preceding the survey. Accordingly, any person who did not work but did not seek employment, for whatever reason, is not included in the statistics.
The State's Reports extensively alludes to the rapid growth experienced by the Israeli economy in recent years, and attributes to it the drop in unemployment. However, this growth has been disproportionally enjoyed by the economic elite of Israel. The average monthly salary of top executives in the twenty-five largest companies of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange climbed from being 49 times higher than the average monthly wage in 2000, to being 94 times higher in 2009. Indeed, today's Israeli economy is characterized by sharply increasing economic inequality and persisting socio-economic disparities among its various minority groups. According to the CBS, low-income employed Israelis (earning two-thirds of median income), who made up 25.9% of employees in 2009, earned 7.7% of the national income, while the top 1 % of Israeli wage-earners enjoyed 8.7% of the national income. Three quarters of the Israeli labor force earn salaries less than one-third of high-tech salaries.16
These figures explain why, in present-time Israel, work does not necessarily mean an end to poverty. It has emerged that the average “profile” of a poor person in Israel is not necessarily that of someone who is unemployed, as might be expected, but rather an employee with post-secondary education. The National Insurance Institute report for 2009 shows that working families account for as much as 49% of the total poor population. In the majority of families that joined the circle of poverty, the head of the household was employed. 19
According to figures from the National Insurance Institute, presented in the Adva Center report,17 in 2008 approximately 60% of employees in the Israeli market earned less than NIS 6,389, which is 75% of the average salary – NIS 8,518. Moreover, 40% of employees earned less than half the average salary. The salary pyramid shows that over 70% of workers earn less than the average market salary.18
Economic disparities in Israel still fall along the many ethnic, national, geographic, and gender lines in Israeli society. Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Israelis continue to face differing employment realities, with the average salary of second generation Mizrahi individuals employed in urban areas 40% lower than that of an Ashkenazi employee. This disparity becomes significantly steeper when drawn between Jewish and Arab Israelis, with an Arab worker earning on average 30% less than Mizrahi Israelis and around half of what the average Ashkenazi Israeli makes. While the State's Report notes that unemployment has decreased among recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, only a select number have actually thrived economically, mostly those who have entered the high tech fields. Instead, recent Russian immigrants continue to be over-represented in the lower echelon of wage earners and under-represented among that of high wage earners. Ethiopian Israelis face considerably worse realities: the majority are poor and hold menial jobs, and even those graduating with university degrees find it difficult to get a job in a discriminating labor market and many end up working in NGOs and government departments focused on their community.20
The distinctions in employment along social cleavages are also translated to type of employment. In 2007, 66.6% of male non-Jews held positions in skilled and unskilled work in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction, compared to 33.4% of total Jews. In the academic, professional or managerial sectors, only 14.7% of male non-Jews held positions while a total of 38.7% of total Jews did.22 These differences were less drastic, though still very present, for women.
Women continue to be over-represented in some fields and highly under-represented in others. They constitute 76% of education service employees, 72% of health service employees, and 85% of welfare and social service employees.21 However, they are underrepresented in civil services and in the Israeli government, with only 23 female members in the Knesset (less than 20%) and three in the government ministries (10%).
Rapid economic growth, largely fueled by high-tech exports, reaped important benefits for central Israel (in and around Tel Aviv), to the neglect of Israel's periphery. Particularly overlooked in this respect have been Arab-Israelis. As the State's Report notes, while there was a very slight decrease in unemployment among Arab-Israelis, unemployment in the Arab sector remains high. According to CBS, in 2007 all but one of the forty-seven towns claiming a higher than average unemployment rate are Arab-Israeli. Arab poverty is attributed to low participation of Arab women in the labor force and to the deficiency of Arab participation in the high-tech and service industries. Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer points to discrimination as a significant factor to these persisting inequalities.23
The military service requirement is found in many want ads for a wide variety of jobs that bear no resemblance or relevance to military training. This contravenes Israeli case law, which has already determined that preferential hiring on the basis of military and/or national service when such service has no bearing whatsoever on the nature of the work constitutes illegal “bypassing” discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel. Indeed, setting a discriminatory employment condition, such as military service, is a criminal offense under Israeli law but the State of Israel – specifically, the Labor Law Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce – has not done enough to enforce the prohibition on this condition.
Not enough has been done by the government to address this disparity, which is perpetuated by persisting discriminatory institutions and practices. The points below elaborate on this issue.
Steps taken to address obstacles to employment by the Arab Israeli population
"Military Service" as a Criterion for Employment
“Military service” as a criterion in job requirements effectively precludes Israeli Arabs from many jobs, since the vast majority of the Arab population does not serve in the army or in national service. The military service requirement makes it impossible for Arab citizens to enjoy equal opportunity in employment. It also runs counter to the provisions of Israel's labor laws, especially the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, 1988, which prohibits discrimination in hiring practices on the basis of, amongst other criteria, religion and/or nationality.
Recently, there have been several attempts to legalize the use of this criterion, through proposed legislation that would, for civil service jobs, give preference in hiring to veterans of the military. In May 2011, a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu party came up for first reading in the Knesset. In hiring people for civil service positions, this legislation would establish priority for those who had served in the military or the police (including National Service) despite the fact that military service has no bearing whatsoever on the character or nature of civil service work. In response, ACRI published a position paper stressing that the bill violates the rights of all those applicants who are exempted by law from military service – principally the Arab population – by denying them equal opportunity for employment in the civil service. If that were not enough, the bill runs totally counter to Article 15a of the Civil Service Law (Appointments), 1959, which establishes an affirmative action obligation for hiring Arabs for civil service positions. This article was enacted more than a decade ago as a means to achieving greater equality between Arabs and Jews in the service of the state. It imposes a positive obligation on the state: to work towards fair representation of its Arab citizens, including Druze and Circassian, among civil service employees. Needless to say, the affirmative action obligation was instituted to correct the historical discrimination against the Arab population, one manifestation of which was the under-representation of Arabs in the civil service.
The State's Report dedicates an entire section on state efforts to achieve appropriate representation for Arab citizens in the civil service. However, the proposed legislation now before the Knesset would harm the chances of Arab applicants to be accepted into the civil service; would render meaningless the state's obligation to achieve fair representation; would overturn the worthy goals of and the purpose behind Article 15a of the Civil Service Law; and would perpetuate the discrimination against and the disenfranchisement of Israel's Arab citizenry. It should be emphasized that bills of this type are especially injurious to Arab women, who are severely under-represented in the civil service, both in comparison to Arab men and to women in general. Laws of this sort would only further the isolation of Arab women, preventing them from integrating into the civil service and the Israeli workforce in general.
Israel argues that equality can be achieved through National Civil Service, which makes the servant eligible for financial benefits equal to a non-combatant.24 Arab citizens however only rarely serve in the National Civil Service for various reasons. It should be recalled that Arab citizens – like haredim and people with disabilities – are exempt from military service by law; neither are they obliged to perform alternative National Civil Service service. More importantly however, a democracy does not present its citizens with conditions for enjoying basic rights, and does not discriminate among citizens.
According to Tsofen, an NGO that promotes employment of Arabs in the high-tech industry, only 2% of 80’000 development and researchers workers in Israel are Arabs, although they are 20% of the Israeli population and 10% of the University graduates in science. Tsofen further estimates that there are five medium-sized high-tech companies and several dozen start-ups founded by Arab entrepreneurs in Nazareth and the industrial zones in Nazareth Illit, Tefen and Gush Segev, and another start-up company in the Bedouin village of Hura in the Negev.26 Compounding this problem, the high-tech and service industries in turn benefit disproportionally from the country's economic growth, to the neglect of traditional 'low-tech industries' upon which many Arab-Israelis depend for their livelihoods.
The Limited Employment Opportunities in Towns and Villages
As reported by the State's Report, much of the economic growth characterizing the last few years of Israel has been fueled by the high-tech industry. However, this field involves only a segment of Israeli society, as it employs just 10 % of the Israeli workforce and is concentrated to the center of Israel.25 Most Arab-Israelis reside in the periphery of Israel, and a low rate of college graduation among their community further restricts them from participating equally in the high-tech boom.
The Shortage of State-Run Day-Care Centers for Children
The lack of transportation services to Arab localities has been a serious impediment to Arab mobility and, therefore, to Arab employment and livelihood. Arab rural women, many of whom don't drive, have been the main casualties of this unequal access to transportation. Following a lengthy campaign by a variety of women's rights groups, the Transportation Ministry decided in July 2010 to begin providing public transportation to Arab villages, with new bus lines planned to run to Arab localities in North and Central Israel. The Ministry acknowledged that these services would significantly increase employment opportunities, especially for Arab rural women. However, public transportation fares are planned to rise due to an increase in fuel taxes outlined in the 2011-2012 national budget. This will be particularly felt by lower-income citizens, including Arab-Israeli citizens, who are already more dependent on public transportation than middle and upper class Israelis.
Contributing to unemployment in Arab communities is the under-employment of Arab-Israeli women, with only 18.7 percent of Arab women currently employed, compared to 56% percent of Jewish women. While some government ministers accredit this figure to social and cultural preferences, most experts dispute this simplification and note the unemployment of 11,000 Arab women who hold a university degree.27 One factor to consider is the shortage of state-run day-care centers for children.
Despite the State Report's optimistic appraisal of growing government support for day-care centers in Arab localities, a shortage of state-run day-care centers continues to obstruct many Arab women from seeking employment. The government has taken important steps in the last few years in supporting day-care centers in general, with the 2011-2012 proposed budget dedicating 50% more in subsidies for day care centers. However, currently, government-subsidized facilities are much less accessible to Arab women than they are to Jewish women, with only 6% of Arab preschoolers enrolled in approved day care centers, even while they constitute more than 27% of their age group in Israel.28
Inadequate Public Transportation from Arab Towns and Villages
There is also a serious lack of public transportation in the Bedouin community in the Negev. Unrecognized villages are particularly hard hit, as they aren't provided with access roads or other municipal infrastructure. While the government emphasizes the improvement in the southern and northern recognized Bedouin villages,29 most of these villages still lack the needed infrastructure and fair and equal public transportation; the unrecognized villages on the other hand, where tens of thousands of Bedouins live, still don’t have any public transportation solutions.
Issue 12: Obstacles to Employment in the West Bank
Please indicate how the state party ensures the right to work of (a) Palestinians in the west bank whose agricultural land has been rendered inaccessible by the construction of the barrier and the State party’s permit system. […]
It needs to be preliminarily remarked that Israel, in it’s Replies to the issues of 2011, refers whenever asked about the rights of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to Question 2. The state claims that the CESCR does not apply to the Occupied Territories due to the Conventions territorial character.30 This interpretation however, is seriously flawed. Israel bears the responsibility of ensuring human rights to all the people under its control and jurisdiction. It is due to the military control and occupation, and the dependence of the Palestinians on the military in many aspects of their lives, that Israel bears the responsibility of ensuring human rights to the residents of the Occupied Territory.
Restrictions on Palestinians' access to their farmlands
Throughout the Occupied Territories, Israel employs an extensive policy of limiting the access of Palestinian residents to their agricultural lands, including farmland adjacent to Jewish settlements – a policy employed against a backdrop of settler violence directed at the Palestinians and their property. Moreover, by applying a strict but selective legal regime in the Territories, Israel has greatly limited Palestinians' access to those lands isolated from them by the Separation Barrier, which was built within occupied territory.
Denial of access to lands due to settler violence
As a result the Palestinian’s access to their farmlands is largely prevented for two different reasons. First, the army does not allow them free passage to their lands, requiring prior coordination of every entry. Farmers often face difficulties and prolonged delays in coordinating permitted entries so that they can work their lands. Some of the Palestinian agricultural lands have been engulfed as enclaves within the built-up area of settlements or are within settlement jurisdiction. Consequently Palestinian access to these lands has been cut off completely, and there is a growing fear that the settlers will take over these lands.
The serious injury suffered by Palestinians because of denied access to their farmlands is compounded by the fact that the state authorities have been impotent in dealing with criminal acts perpetrated by Israeli settlers against them. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. Law enforcement authorities have been charged with solving this problem since the seventies. Decades have passed, numerous reports have been written, and yet the “helplessness” displayed by the authorities in combating violent and criminal acts against local residents continues, creating severe injury to Palestinians' right to personal security, in the protection of their physical integrity, their right to property, and their way of life.
Hundreds of such incidents have been witnessed each year, including violent assaults against Palestinian residents, trespassing, theft, the intentional burning of olive groves and other agricultural fields, the felling of trees, taking over of land, and more. Additionally the phenomenon of "price tag" incidents - acts of random violence perpetrated by settlers as a means of collective reprisal and a form of “protest” against various political developments, including the dismantling of unauthorized outposts, etc. - has emerged.
Each year, violence of this sort escalates, intentionally, during the plowing season and the olive harvest, as a means of blocking Palestinians’ access to their lands, causing injury to the Palestinians’ livelihood and as a way of demonstrating the perpetrators’ hold over the land.
Secondly, the army fails to adequately protect the Palestinian farmers, and as a result, many are unwilling to approach their lands for fear of violent attacks or damage to their property. In 2004, ACRI petitioned the Supreme Court demanding that Palestinian farmers be allowed full access to their agricultural lands throughout the year especially during periods requiring intensive work in the fields, and demanding that Palestinians and their property be protected from settler violence in accordance with the obligations of the Military Commander of an occupying force toward the residents of a protected area.
In 2006, the Supreme Court accepted the arguments of the petitioners and ruled that the Palestinian farmers have the right to access their fields at any and all times, and that it is the duty of the Military Commander to ensure and protect that right.31 Similarly, the ruling established a duty to protect Palestinian-owned trees and agricultural fields as well as agricultural equipment, which have also been the target of violence by settlers.
However, several years after this ruling, Palestinians’ right to freely access their lands has not been fully realized, and the authorities continue to tolerate settler violence, which effectively prevents the Palestinians from accessing their lands. Moreover, in recent years there has been a troubling increase in incidents where Palestinian crops have been vandalized, including damage to olive trees. Owing to the partial implementation of the court's ruling, and to the continuous infringements on the rights of, an the financial damage to the Palestinian population stemming from lack of access to their fields and damage to their property, ACRI and other Israeli human rights organizations have appealed on numerous occasions to the Military Commander of the West Bank, demanding that he station military units at known friction points on a regular basis, in order to protect Palestinian residents from settler violence. These requests have been denied, the Commander claiming that in light of priorities, the army was currently doing an adequate job in protecting the Palestinian population.
The Separation Barrier and the regime limiting access to land
In 2002, Israel began building a system of fences and barriers, the vast majority of which were built within the West Bank on Palestinian land and therefore in violation of international law.
As a result of this system, a series of enclaves were created between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line, which have become known as the "seam zone". The seam zone was subsequently declared by the Military Commander a “closed military zone" allowing Israelis and foreigners free passage, while denying Palestinians – including those residing in the area or owning farmland there – entry to those lands unless they received special, one-off dispensation permits. This legal regime, which conditions the Palestinian entry to their own lands on these special permits, has been named "the permits regime".
The approximately 6500 Palestinians who live in these enclaves, as well as the tens of thousands of Palestinians who rely on these lands to make their living, have become subject to a rigid bureaucracy that effectively prevents most of them from access to these lands, from transporting goods and farm equipment in and out, from hiring additional laborers, etc. This has severely damaged the source of their livelihood, their daily routines, and even their access to rescue services in cases of emergency. The permits regime has made these residents totally dependent on the goodwill of the Military Commander, who has the power to grant or revoke permits at will.
A series of 66 gates, built into the Separation Barrier, provides passage to and from the seam zone only for those Palestinians holding entry permits. In most cases, these gates are only opened briefly during the day. The vast majority of these gates is closed most of the year and is opened for special permit holders solely during the plowing season and the olive harvest.
In two separate Supreme Court petitions filed in 2003 and 2004, ACRI and HaMoked - Center for the Defense of the Individual sought the revocation of the permits regime.32 The petitions argued that the permits regime constitutes an illegal judicial entity, in that it discriminates on the basis of ethnicity and nationality between Palestinian residents – whose passage into the seam zone is limited or prohibited – and Israelis and foreign residents, whose free passage does not depend upon their holding a permit. The petitioners further claimed that permits regime is illegal because it subjugates Palestinians to a bureaucracy whose true purpose is to evict them from their lands in the seam zone. In addition, it was claimed that the permits regime was instituted to achieve an illegitimate end, namely the dispossession of protected residents from their lands and the under international law illegal annexation of territories that were not being used solely for security purposes, as it had been claimed by the State of Israel. For example, data presented by the state during petition hearings demonstrated that in recent years there has been a drastic reduction in the number of permits granted to Palestinian residents. At the same time the territory of the seam zone has been expanded by 30%, the number of permits issued to farmers in the zone has plummeted by 83%. The data further showed that the vast majority of the permit refusals (between 90%-98.8%) were issued because the applicants lacked an inherent connection to the land and not because of security concerns (between 1.2% -10%).
On 5.4.11, the Supreme Court rejected the petitions, ruling that the closure of the seam zone was legal and that, aside from a few minor procedural adjustments, the permits regime itself was legally valid. The court's ruling gives legal endorsement to policies aimed at dispossessing Palestinian residents of their lands. It authorizes and institutionalizes systemic discrimination on the basis of nationality, and allows for the continued injury to the local population, which according to international law should enjoy special protection.
Implications of restrictions for Palestinians' ability to achieve an adequate standard of living
Israel's policy of restricting access to Palestinian farmland impacts directly on Palestinians' right to work and the right to an adequate standard of living. Indirectly, it affects their ability to realize a number of other basic rights, including the right to freedom of movement, freedom from occupation, the right to livelihood, property, dignified existence, family life, education, development, and health.
The Palestinian economy relies predominantly on agriculture and in particular on the seasonal growing of olives. Olive farming brings in over $100 million dollars a year to the Palestinian economy.33 Olive growing is typified by intensive agricultural work several times a year during fixed periods, namely: the plowing, pruning, and olive harvest seasons. As such, the strictures imposed upon Palestinian farmers, limiting access to their olive groves during these crucial seasons can mean the loss of an entire year's crop and income. Israel's policies have severe implications for the Palestinian agricultural economy and for those who depend on it for their livelihood. The closure of agricultural lands through the Separation Barrier and the selective and rigid permits regime has resulted in high unemployment in those villages whose agricultural lands lie within the seam zone, and the economic situation in these villages has taken a severe turn for the worse.34
As a result of the above, many villages currently rely on part-time, voluntary assistance from international and Israeli volunteers during the olive harvest, since their extended family members who traditionally helped out at harvest time are sometimes denied access to the lands or are fearful of harvesting olives alone.