Israeli Arabs have low chances in high tech

Student  photo: Eyal Izhar
Student photo: Eyal Izhar

Only 30% of Arabs who study technological subjects eventually find work in the industry.

The Ministry of Finance chief economist's weekly survey, published yesterday, paints a bleak picture of the attempts of Israeli Arabs to work in technological professions. Although the number of Arab students in technological disciplines has risen dramatically in recent years, the dropout rate among these students remains high (59%), while for those who complete their courses the chances of obtaining a job in their fields remain low (58%). In other words, only about 30% of Israeli Arabs who start studying technological subjects eventually work in high tech. Only outstanding students have chances of being accepted for high-tech jobs similar to those of their Jewish counterparts.

The main reason for the low participation of Israeli Arabs in technological professions is the low number of Arab students who study relevant subjects such as computer science, software engineering, and electrical and electronic engineering. In the period 1985-2014, among all first degree graduates in technological subjects, only 1,598 were Arabs, just 2.3% of the total, amounting to an average of 50 a year.

In the past few years there has been a turnaround, and last year the proportion of Arab students in technological subjects reached 9.5%, or 2,222 students, of whom about 1,133 can be expected to graduate successfully, assuming that the dropout rate remains constant. This means that the 2016-2017 cohort will add more Arab graduates in computer science and engineering to the Israeli high-tech industry than the twenty cohorts that preceded it put together.

The dropout rate among Arab students is much higher than among Jewish students: 59% versus 32%. Even those Arab students who do finish their studies successfully will not necessarily find work in the industry. Whereas three out of every four Jewish technology graduates were placed in the high-tech industry, the proportion for Arab students is, as mentioned, only 58%, meaning that Jewish graduates have 1.3 times greater chances than their Arab counterparts of finding themselves in the high-tech industry. The gap narrows only when it comes to outstanding Arab students, those whose scores in the quantitative psychometric tests are in the top 10%.

The difficulty in finding work in high tech is even greater in non-core professions such as human resources, accounting, and so on. One in every 6.5 Jewish graduates finds work in high tech, whereas the proportion among Arab graduates is one in 50. These statistics indicate that it Is not just appropriate considerations such as suitability that affect the chances of being hired, but that other factors, such as negative stereotypes, a lack of role models among Israeli Arabs, and a lack of connections (since employment in the industry is to a large extent based on "friends bring along friends") make it hard for Arabs to integrate into the high-tech industry, whether in the core professions or in ancillary professions.

The Tsofen organization, which promotes high tech in Israeli Arab society, said in response, "We welcome the rise in the number of Arab students in high-tech disciplines in academic institutions. Nevertheless, we must stress that the process of integrating fresh graduates in high-tech companies is complex for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that these graduates are mostly young people with no work experience. Most high-tech companies have not yet adjusted their recruitment procedures, but those that have done so can testify to the many advantages and to impressive growth in the number of Arab employees. Another factor is that the government should understand that it needs to encourage high-tech companies to open branches in Arab settlements and to push for implementation of government programs for integrating different populations in high tech."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on August 28, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

Student  photo: Eyal Izhar
Student photo: Eyal Izhar
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