More Israeli Arabs earning degrees, but inequalities still wide

Ar'ara in northern Israel  credit: Shlomi Yosef
Ar'ara in northern Israel credit: Shlomi Yosef

The Israel Democracy Institute's Annual Statistical Report on Arab Society portrays a revolution in attitudes to higher education.

To judge from the Annual Statistical Report on Arab Society published by the Israel Democracy Institute, we are at the height of a revolution in Arab society in Israel, certainly as far education is concerned, with a dramatic rise in the number of Arabs studying at institutions of higher education, particularly women. The change in higher education has follow-on effects in employment and other areas of life.

This trend is being met by an opposite one among parts of Arab society that are being left behind, fueling the worsening problem of crime and violence.

The Annual Statistical Report was edited by Dr. Nasreen Haddad Haj Yahya, Dr. Muhammed Khalaily, and Dr. Arik Rudnitzky, and it shows that the education statistics are cause for optimism. The proportion of Arab high school pupils obtaining bagrut (matriculation) certificates has risen from 47.7% in the 2009/10 academic year to 63.9% in 2018/19. Nevertheless, there is still a gap between the Arab and Jewish education systems. Entitlement to a bagrut certificate rose in the latter from 61.8% in 2009/10 to 73.1% in 2018/19. Among Israel's Bedouin Arabs, the rise in the same period is more modest, from 43.6% to 48.1%.

The revolution is to be found in higher education. The number of Arabs studying for first degrees in Israeli universities and colleges almost doubled from 22,268 in 2010 to 43,454 in 2020, while the number studying for second degrees almost tripled, from 3,270 to 9,252 in the same period.

The most significant rise is in the proportion of Arab students in computer sciences, from 6.9% in 1999 to 16.2% in 2019. There has been a corresponding rise in the proportion of Arabs employed in technological professions in recent years. In absolute numbers, the number of Arab salaried workers in technology companies almost tripled between 2012 and 2019, from 2,200 to 6,100.

In the same period, there has also been a substantial rise in the proportion of Arab students studying medicine, from 8.2% to 12%, and para-medical professions, from 10.8% to 26.7%, while the proportion in teacher training has risen from 11.8% to 22%.

There has also been real change in the employment of Arab women. In 2001, the proportion of Arab women in employment was 19.8%. By 2018, this had risen to 38.2%.

What stands out, however, from the Annual Statistical Report on Arab Society, which is based on figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the National Insurance Institute, local authorities, and NGOs such as The Galilee Society and the Abraham Foundation, is that the gaps between Arab and Jewish society in Israel remain wide.

For example, despite the rise in the average nominal wage between 2008 and 2018 among the Arab population, the rise among the Jewish population was greater, and the gap between the two remained very wide.

In 2008, the average wage of Jewish women was 56% higher than that of Arab women. By 2018, the gap was 61%. Among men, the gap narrowed from 85% in 2008 to 77% in 2018, in favor of Jewish men.

One of the main reasons for the gap in earnings is that the gap in education also remains wide. 77% of the Arab population are educated up to bagrut level or below, and only 15% hold academic degrees. Among the Jewish population, 33% hold academic degrees. The sectors of employment and occupations are also an important factor in the wages gap. Almost half of Arab men are employed in construction, trade, and hospitality, where average wages are low. Arab women are also concentrated in low-paying sectors: about half of them work in education, healthcare and welfare.

The study finds that 95% of Arab settlements, in which almost 90% of the Arab population live, are in the four lowest socio-economic clusters. 11% are in the lowest cluster. Only 17% of Jewish settlements are in the lowest four clusters.

Dr. Muhammed Khalaily, one of the three authors of the report, told "Globes" that the numbers flocking to the universities and colleges indicated the growing importance of education in the eyes of Arab society and Arab families.

He said that this was connected to Arabs' status as a national minority. He agreed that the five-year plan begun in 2016 and the one now underway played an important part in the revolution, and that the higher level of government spending was bringing results. He said that the professional echelon of government understood better than the political echelon that investment in education in Arab society, and especially in higher education, advanced the whole country, and therefore assigned it high importance.

Rising tide of violence

The report shows what we already knew: violence in Arab society has reached intolerable levels. Shooting incidents in Arab society in 2020 represented 92% of all such incidents in Israel that year, totaling 1,673, a significant worsening from 921 incidents in 2017.

Dr. Khalaily says that this is result of decades of neglect during which the police and enforcement agencies turned a blind eye and allowed certain areas to become "ex-territorial", in the grip of crime organizations.

He says that the claim by some Israeli politicians that this had a cultural aspect is partly correct, and that in Arab culture there was a degree of encouragement of violence, but adds that this plays only a small part in the causes of the phenomenon. He says that because of the failures of law enforcement, crime organizations had become untouchable, and if they were caught paid a low price for their actions, making crime highly profitable.

Dr. Khalaily admits that in recent months there has been a change on the ground, which he ascribes to Minister of Internal Security Omer Bar-Lev, and particularly to his deputy Yoav Segalovich. "The total lawlessness of decades will not be solved in two days, but this trend must continue, and the reality test of the change is in the fall in violence statistics at the end of the year and in surveys showing that the Arab public has a greater sense of personal security," he says.

Dr. Khalaily cites interesting analysis of the two parallel phenomena: the rise in higher education, and the rise in violence. He says that the rise in the prevalence of higher education actually causes a reaction on the part of those who do not make it that far, and remain with employment options on the bottom of the wage ladder. They too want to enjoy the benefits of progress and the rise in the standard of living, and the shortest way is for them to join crime organizations.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on March 17, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on March 17, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Ar'ara in northern Israel  credit: Shlomi Yosef
Ar'ara in northern Israel credit: Shlomi Yosef
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