Report – Condemned to Unemployment: East Jerusalem Women Struggle for Integration into the Labor Market

instruction, to reach a level of exemption from having to learn Hebrew by the 10th grade. In addition, a course for Hebrew teachers was opened at the David Yelin Seminar for Teachers. Soon the third round will finish and, as of now, there are 28 graduates. But, according to the head of Arabic Education at the Jerusalem Education Authority, Mrs Nabila Mana’a, the program is not producing the desired results. “The training of the teachers is not quite clear,” she says. “Some of them already know Hebrew and are qualified as such. They undergo a ‘cultural’ mentoring and support, but they are not professional teachers (of Hebrew).” According to her, one of the obstacles to having good, well-qualified teachers of Hebrew is that these teachers are hired on a temporary basis, through sub-contractors, sometimes on pay that is not above board.

In the drive to overcome the language barrier, WAC has lately been offering Hebrew language classes for women wanting to improve their language skills for integration into the jobs market.

7)        Abusive Employment

Because of their lack of school completion and a graduation certificate, the only employment positions open to the great majority of EJ women are non-professional, mostly in cleaning and care. These areas suffer from subcontracted, abusive employment. After overcoming the obstacles described in the previous sections, EJ women encounter an abusive labor market, which often denies them the chance to become integrated at work.

First, there is religious discrimination. Employers often refuse to accept women with headscarves. This is illegal. Nevertheless, the EB refers many women to hotels where it is openly stated to them that for the job, and even for the interview, they have to uncover their heads. EB clerks sometimes threaten them that if they do not comply, their basic income support will be withdrawn for two months. Despite WAC’s complaints on the matter, the Employment Service continues to direct women to such employers, reprimanding those who refuse to remove their headscarves.

Secondly, underemployment is common. An example is the case of Shada Barakat, a WAC member of 22 who lives in Isawiya with her family. Barakat finished 12 years at school and has a Palestinian ‘Tawjihi” (certificate). She also gained qualification in cosmetics from the Employment Service, and she wants to learn to work with children. In practice, the only jobs to which she has been directed by the EB are either in cleaning or care. “I worked at two jobs in 2016 via the Employment Service,” relates Barakat. “One was for three days, and the longest was for three months in personal care, but that was only three hours a day twice a week. There was so little work and the pay was so low that I kept going to the EB in the hope of finding more work with more hours, but they did not find any. When I asked the employer for a pay slip, he did not fire me but simply stopped sending me to new people who needed care.” About the cleaning job, she relates that she was rejected by the employer, and only when she asked the bureau placement officer to intervene was she accepted. Even then she had to chase after her employer daily to ask her where she would be cleaning, because the location changed daily. After three days she was fired, with no explanation and no letter of termination.

Barakat’s experience of summary dismissal after a short period, with no hearing, no prior notice, and no letter is the kind of thing we encounter too often. Employers change workers often, taking advantage of their precarious situation. The workers have few rights, because labor rights generally accrue from length of employment. These include the right to compensation for dismissal, to sick pay, and to days of annual leave. For employers this is heaven: a worker employed at a fraction of a full-time position for two months will not rush to assert her rights, even though they have not been met, because in such a case rights are minimal, and the cost of an appeal is usually more than the potential amount. WAC helps workers appeal even for small sums by saving them the expense of hiring a lawyer.

The story of Hitam Falah, 39, of Shuafat Refugee Camp, married and a mother of four, illustrates employers’ contempt for Palestinian women. Falah worked as a cleaner through a contracting company, to which she had been directed by the EB. She describes very hard physical work, cleaning many offices and toilets, and using many chemicals. She was subjected to contemptuous treatment through constant disruptions of her eating breaks. The employer acknowledged that she had an excessive workload, but refused to hire another worker. When Hitam became pregnant she again asked for another worker to help her, but she was refused. When she feared that the working conditions were harming

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