The study shows that Arab Israeli women have improved their academic achievements in high school, are more successful than Arab Israeli men, and are approaching the achievements of Jewish women. In addition, there has been an increase in the share of Arab Israeli women pursuing higher education.
However, alongside these positive trends, there are areas that require further improvement: Arab Israeli women pursue careers in the field of education, which is already saturated with workers, at high rates, and study or pursue work in more lucrative fields such as computers and engineering at much lower rates.
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.
Arab Israeli women are characterized by relatively low educational and employment achievements, but this appears to be changing greatly in recent years. A new study by Taub Center Researcher Hadas Fuchs, with the assistance of Content Manager Tamar Friedman-Wilson, shows that the percentage of Arab Israeli women succeeding on the bagrut (matriculation) exam surpasses that of Arab Israeli men, and is approaching that of non-Haredi Jewish women (as seen in the figure).
It seems that the gap that still exists between the women of the two sectors is attributable to the Arab Israeli population’s lower socioeconomic status: when controlling for socioeconomic background, the rate of matriculation eligibility among Arab Israeli women is higher than that of Jewish women.
Another encouraging fact that emerges from the study is that many Arab Israeli women choose science and engineering majors in high school, subjects that are 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.
The enrollment of Arab Israeli women in higher education institutions rose significantly between 2008 and 2013, while among Arab Israeli men there was almost no change at all. The largest increase, almost 50%, took place among Bedouin and Druze women.
However, despite this increase, gaps still remain between the groups: in 2014, about half of Jewish and Arab Christian women aged 30-33 held an academic degree, whereas the percentage of academics was only 23% among Muslim women, 19% among Druze, and 16% among the Bedouin. However, given the increase in enrollment rates in recent years, the gap is expected to narrow.
The Taub Center study also shows that a large percentage of Arab Israeli women are pursuing degrees in education: 42% among Muslim women and 46% among Bedouin women, compared to about 20% among Arab Christians and Druze and 16% among Jews.
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 31% among Jewish women, 21% among Arab Christians, 22% among Druze, and only 9% among Muslim women.
The improvement in educational achievements, which has narrowed the gaps between Arab Israeli and Jewish women, is not evident to the same degree when looking at employment. 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%.
A particularly significant increase occurred among Arab Israeli women aged 45-54 with no academic education – with employment increasing from 10% to 20%. Among Arab Israeli women with an academic degree, the employment rate stands at about 75% and has not changed much over the past decade.
According to Fuchs and Friedman-Wilson, “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%.
However, the increase in the share of Arab Israeli women pursuing higher education likely indicates an improvement in their integration into the labor market in the coming years, since the employment rate of Arab Israeli female academics is much higher than that of women without an academic education.”
The Taub Center study also found that a particularly high percentage of Arab Israeli women work in the field of education: over 50% of Muslim, Bedouin, and Druze women who have an academic degree – more than three times the share of Jewish women degree-holders employed in this field. This figure also includes many Arab Israeli women who earned a degree in a subject other than education, but work in the field nonetheless.
The average number of teacher work hours in the Arab education system has risen, accompanied by a decline in the share of part-time workers, indicating that many Arab Israeli women seem to find work in the field and with a large number of hours.
However, in recent years, Arab Israelis who studied education have found it difficult to find employment in the field: as shown in the figure, the percentage of Arab Israelis who received training in education and have since entered the field of teaching declined from 90% in 2005 to 59% in 2015, compared to Jews where those entering the field has remained stable at around 74%.
In addition to the large number of graduates with a degree in education, the supply of teachers in the Arab Israeli sector does not meet regional needs: while more teachers are needed for the Bedouin population in the south, in the north there is an excess of teachers.
The differences between Jews and Arab Israelis are also evident in average wages, both among men and women. Wage gaps are low among those with degrees in the fields of health and education, and large among graduates of engineering, computers, business administration and management.
Among women, the wage gap between Jewish and Arab Israelis with a degree in computers is very high, standing at about 60% (apparently due to differences in mathematical skills, as exhibited in the quantitative section of the psychometric exam).
In summary, the Taub Center’s study shows that the employment rates of Arab Israeli women are growing but still remain low, and there is great potential for further growth due to the rise in the share of Arab Israeli women studying in higher education.
There are also several challenges facing Arab Israeli women with regard to employment: low psychometric exam scores, low proficiency in the Hebrew language, and a high percentage of Arab Israeli women working in education rather than in science, high tech and engineering.
It is possible to confront these challenges and promote this population group in several ways, including: improving the Arab education system, advising students to increase awareness of ‘in demand’ professions and providing guidance as they navigate academic studies and enter the labor market, and increasing employment opportunities for workers in Arab Israeli localities and the surrounding areas.
As Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss explains, “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.
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.”
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute. The Center provides decision makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor markets and economic policy in order to impact the decision-making process in Israel and to advance the well-being of all Israelis.
For details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Anat Sella-Koren, Director of Marketing, Communications and Government Relations at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel: 050-690-9749.