Rushing to Work: Improving transportation infrastructure will contribute to an improvement in employment rates among Arab Israeli women
Author: Taub Center Staff

The school year has ended, bringing with it a welcome ease in traffic congestion. While children are enjoying their vacation, adults continue to commute to work every day. This is a great opportunity to consider how Israelis get to work and how commuting trends are related to the labor market – for Arab Israeli women in particular.

road-3251358_640_crThere has been significant press attention surrounding the considerable rise in the employment of Arab Israeli women. In fact, research published in the Taub Center’s State of the Nation Report 2018 shows that the employment rate among Arab Israeli women has risen and has nearly reached the government target set for 2020 of 41%.

These trends reflect a great effort to improve employment opportunities, particularly for socioeconomically weaker population groups. Alongside programs to encourage labor force participation, like the expansion of work grants and programs like Families First (Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services with the JDC and the Rashi Foundation), the government has invested resources in expanding technological-vocational education in high schools with the goal of increasing future employment options.

Nevertheless, employment rates among Arab Israeli women remain low relative to other population groups in Israel – 39% versus 84% among non-Haredi Jewish women and 76% among Haredi women.

The 2018 Taub Center study Arab Israeli Women Entering the Labor Market: Higher Education, Employment, and Wages, by Hadas Fuchs and Tamar Friedman Wilson, examines the challenges these women face in integrating into the labor market, among them the reasons for their higher concentration in teaching professions. One of the reasons pointed out in the study is that work in this field allows women to stay close to home.

This reveals a piece of the important connection between occupational choice, employment options, and accessibility, which are detailed in the Taub Center report by Haim Bleikh, Back and Forth: Commuting for Work in Israel. The study looks at the importance of spatial matching to finding suitable employment.

With a majority of Arab Israelis living in the North of the country, they are separated geographically from Israel’s main employment centers. This distance increases the cost of daily commutes (in money and time), which makes labor market integration for Arab Israeli women, who also tend to be the primary caregivers at home, more difficult. Investments in public transportation infrastructure, then, would be expected to contribute substantially to employment of women and the residents of the North in general.

Bleikh’s study suggests a connection between employment accessibility and Arab Israeli women going out to work. The lack of reasonable public transportation infrastructure options is likely to impede the trends we have seen of improved labor force participation rates among these women. Improving infrastructure will make it easier for people to get to work, and will also advance equality in opportunities in a variety of areas of life.

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