Any substantial discussion about the economic situation of women in Israel – particularly with regard to labor market outcomes – must be placed in the context of the unique demographic trends in the country. At 3.0 children per woman in 2014, as shown in Figure 1, Israel has a much higher fertility rate than any other country in the OECD. In contrast to its fellow OECD countries, Israel’s fertility rate today is relatively similar to that in 1980. While other developed countries are dealing with the economic burden of a rapidly aging population and fertility rates below replacement levels, Israel does not face similar demographic challenges.
Israeli society – including its culture, geopolitical situation and governmental policies – has helped encourage both fertility and female participation in the labor market. Such policies include government funded in-vitro fertilization treatments for up to two children, job protection during pregnancy, generous wage replacement rates equal to 100% of the salary during the 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, childcare subsidies for qualifying families, universal preschool from age three and reduced working hours following the return from maternity leave (“nursing hour”) (Bowers, 2014).
Yet, in some categories, support for working mothers in Israel lags behind that provided in the OECD. This brief provides context on important trends regarding women in the labor market in Israel and provides guidance on what policies Israel would need to undertake to align with prevailing norms in the OECD in regards to parental leave and family-friendly work practices.