As Israel has become a center for innovation, the nation has attracted investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe. In fact, new technology in computer science and cyber security entices nearly 15 percent of the world’s venture-capital in the industry. While the standard of living in Israel ranks around 19th in the world, over one-fifth of its population lives in poverty.
Education Combats Poverty
One of the ways in which the country combats poverty is through access to education in Israel. Israeli culture and history emphasizes the importance of education and employment in traditionally white collar jobs. Israel’s education system is three-tiered, schooling children from age 5 to 18.
The OECD’s report on education recognizes Israel as one of the most educated countries in the world; almost half of the countries 25 to 34 years old held bachelor’s degrees. While there is high participation in higher education, there are major gender inequalities.
Gender Inequality in Israel
UNICEF’s data indicates that girls fare better in primary and secondary schools with rates slightly higher than their male counterparts.While access to education in the state-run school system is generally equal, the outcomes of this system are not. Education in Israel succeeds in educating its population through 18, but does not always provide ample employment opportunity for its women.
Women in Israel are enrolling in higher education, making up about 57 percent of incoming students. They are outperforming their male peers but are less likely to find work upon graduation.
Women are also paid around 30 percent less than their male counterparts, which is higher than the OECD average of 26 percent. Despite a well-educated population, over 20 percent of Israel’s population lives below the poverty line; the connection between gendered wage disparities and poverty is curious. Arab women and haredi men tend to see the highest rates of unemployment. Engaging women in the workforce and building on the classroom education experience could benefit the economy and quality of life for families in Israel.
Women in the Workforce
Women participating in the workforce, although earning less than men, also work fewer hours. The primary reason for the large portion of women working part-time is child care — only half of women with higher education and children aged 0 to 4 worked, while their husbands, with similar education levels, were employed at a rate of 84 percent.
The cost and responsibility of childcare rests primarily on women’s shoulders, preventing women from adding to the family income and also creating a ripple effect in delaying a woman’s professional development and the timeline for her career. That being said, Israel does have policies to protect women in the workforce before, during and after their pregnancy. With 6 months maternal leave, about 3 months paid, these policies provide incentives for women to remain in the workforce during childbearing years.
Keeping Israel’s Future Bright
While the future of Israel looks bright, low participation in the workforce remains a daunting problem hindering economic development and poverty reduction. By continuing to explore ways to strengthen the system of education in Israel, the state can improve on one of its best assets — its people.
An asset-based community development plan can help firms benefit from improved labor participation, and benefit families living below or near the poverty line. All in all, creating opportunities for women and using their education in Israel can lead to reduced poverty and a more robust economy.
– M. Shea Lamanna