WAC’s Executive Director meets OECD delegation:

<p>“The government's promises on employment of Arab women remain unfulfilled”</p>

“The government’s promises on employment of Arab women remain unfulfilled”

The Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN) today presented members of the OECD delegation, currently visiting Israel, with a strong indictment against government policy on all issues regarding the Arab population, especially those concerning integration of Arab women into the workforce. WAC’s executive director, Assaf Adiv, told the five-member delegation: “The Israeli government is not fulfilling any of its commitments to the OECD. Despite the profusion of decisions during the last two years,” he continued, “and despite far-reaching commitments to take on Arab workers in the public sector and promote the employment of Arab women, there has been no change on the ground, and the situation continues to deteriorate. The expected budgetary cuts in development and welfare will lead to further deterioration and are liable to bring about social unrest in Arab towns.”

It will be recalled that OECD, consisting of some 30 developed industrialized nations, decided to accept Israel as a member in 2010. This was conditional on a number of steps which the government pledged to take in order to reduce social inequality and increase employment rates among Arab women and ultra-Orthodox men. The purpose of the delegation now visiting Israel is to examine the situation by meeting independent bodies and hearing their assessments of government policies.

Thus the delegation members, led by John Martin, OECD Director for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs, requested a meeting with WAC representatives and with the director of the Adva Center, Shlomo Swirski. Swirski was very critical of government policy on all issues concerning the Arab population, emphasizing the utter lack of investment in job creation in Arab towns.

WAC’s executive director, Assaf Adiv, presented a dire picture of unemployment and poverty in Arab towns, describing a reality of violence and social destruction. According to Adiv, an increase in the employment of Arab women in agriculture could be a powerful way to change this situation, but in practice farm labor continues to be imported, mostly from Thailand. While only a few jobs are open to Arab women, thousands are crying out for work.

For seven years now WAC has placed Arab women in agricultural jobs, but it is clear that unless the importation of cheap, unorganized labor from Thailand and elsewhere is stopped, farmers will not make a significant increase in the hiring of Arab women. Only an immediate halt to the importation of foreign workers—not only in agriculture, but also in personal care and construction—will open tens of thousands of jobs for Arab women and men.

Adiv also emphasized the tough situation faced by Arab academics in finding work. He noted, however, that for them new jobs must be created, whereas a halt to the importation of labor will open up jobs that already exist. The integration of thousands of men and women into the labor market, even at the level of manual labor, will increase incomes in the Arab sector and improve the chances of coming generations. Jobs for tens of thousands of Arab women will empower them, improving their independence and status within Arab society and Israeli society as a whole.

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