Agents of non-discriminatory hiring practices.
Regarding the government, the picture that emerges is that firstly, it has taken some important initiatives to increase the representation of persons from minority groups within its own ranks, but progress is disappointingly slow. Secondly, retrenchment of government responsibility for employment policy is having an adverse effect on planning and coordination.
Regarding the private sector, the idea of affirmative action or active nondiscrimination policy is very new; there is no legislation mandating affirmative action and no real practice of affirmative action.
Regarding civil society, firstly, this is the sector that has long been engaged in exposing patterns of discrimination. It also pioneered non-discriminatory hiring practices in Israel, including affirmative action. Secondly, the involvement of civil society in the operation of employment projects targeted at members of minority groups is a relatively new development, triggered by the agendas of organizations that provide funding.
Among the three agents, the government is the most significant actor, from the standpoint of personnel, allocations and total activity. However, over the last two decades, the government has tended to reduce its budgets and the extent of its activities, and it has transferred a large and growing portion of its responsibility to the private sector and to civil society organizations. Government expenditure on active labor policies is quite low; in 2007, it amounted to 0.21% of the national product, in contrast to the average of 0.7% for OECD countries (Bank of Israel, 2008, Chapter 5).
Within government, the main body that deals with employment is the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment. Here the two most relevant departments are the Vocational Training Department and the Government Employment Service.
The Vocational Training Department has lost most of its budget and personnel. Whereas in the past, tens of thousands of unemployed persons received subsidized training every year, their numbers have been reduced to a few thousand (Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment, Memorandum to the Adva Center, April l, 2008). Some of the functions of the department were transferred to the "Mehalev " Program ("From Dependency to Self-Sufficiency --also referred to as "The Wisconsin Plan"), operated by private corporations.
The Government Employment Service was also downsized. However, a few years ago it was reorganized and began to adopt innovative modes of operation, inspired by those developed by civil society organizations.
To the above departments one should add the Mat! Business Development Centers of the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority. This is a non-profit organization established by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment, in which various government ministries, chambers of commerce and business people cooperate. Mati Centers can be found throughout the country, and their purpose is to assist local entrepreneurs. In recent years, Mati Centers have begun to focus on special groups: for example, the center in Hadera assists new immigrants from the Caucasus, the centers in Jerusalem and B'nei Brak assist ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Netanya center assists Ethiopian Israelis, the Acre center assists Druze, and the center in the Triangle assists Arab citizens. A new center is being set up in Beer Sheba to assist Bedouin citizens of Israel.
The Private Sector
Two aspects of the activities of the private sector are examined: activities promoting the hiring of members of minority groups within private business (affirmative action), and activities that can be defined as the implementation of government projects in the area of employment (outsourcing).
Affirmative Action: Within the private sector, awareness of the need for affirmative action in industrial and commercial firms is in its infancy. In the meantime, the most outstanding actions are two. Firstly, the creation of indicators that rank firms by their actions in the areas of human rights and employment diversity: a social seal awarded by the organization B'ma'aglei Tzedek to businesses that comply with labor laws and provide decent working conditions; the stamp of approval of the Midrug Company/NETA, which examines the numbers of women employed by various corporations in senior managerial positions; and the Maala-Business for Social Responsibility ranking, inspired by the US BSR, based on the criteria of business ethics, human rights, community investment and environment.
Secondly, joint initiatives of non-profits and private employers to promote the hiring of Ethiopian and Arab university graduates. This appears to be a promising direction, both for the placement of minority workers in managerial and senior positions and as a route to advocacy work on behalf of minority groups among employers.
Outsourcing: The single largest program operant in Israel is Mehalev (revised and renamed Orot L'Taasuka), based on US welfare-to-work models. Mehalev is being implemented by four private corporations financed by the state. It is not an affirmative action program; however, it needs to be mentioned because over a third of its participants are new immigrants and about 40% are Arab citizens (National Insurance Institute and Brookdale Institute, 2008: 4). The government is committed to Mehalev, despite the fact that to date its outcomes have not been particularly impressive: it appears that participants who found work while in the program did not improve their income level (Ibid: 15; National Insurance Institute and Brookdale Institute, 2007: 14). It also appears that the main reason for this outcome is that the program does not upgrade participants' workplace skills (Bank of Israel, August 2007: 26). In 2007, the Knesset approved a series of changes in the program (Ibid: 2007). It remains to be seen if these changes will succeed in making Mehalev an effective instrument of anti-discrimination and affirmative action policies.
Civil Society Organizations
Non-profits play an important role in raising public awareness about employment discrimination. Today, many civil society organizations have shifted their major focus from advocacy work to service provision, becoming sub-contractors of projects designed to find jobs for unemployed persons, to teach job seekers how to apply for jobs, and to conduct vocational training. Some of the projects are the initiatives of the organizations themselves; others are implemented in cooperation with the government and the JDC Tevet program (see below). The extent of the activities of civil society organizations is limited, mainly due to limited resources: the organizations operate on the basis of short-term contracts or private contributions and cannot make longterm commitments.
The second largest project in the area of employment (after Mehalev) is Tevet, an endeavor funded jointly by the government and the JDC. Tevet's goal is to increase the workforce participation of groups with weak connections to the labor market: Arab citizens, ultra-Orthodox Jews, new immigrants, solo mothers and persons with disabilities. Tevet is basically a research and development body that aims to develop new models, in the hope that government agencies will later adopt and finance them (JDC, 2008, Tevet Employment Initiative Report). Many of the models employed by Tevet originated with civil society organizations, and most of the actual work in the field is done by civil society organizations. As of November 2008, some 20,000 persons participated in Tevet projects (ibid). Non-profits participating in Tevet as well as Tevet people express serious doubts over whether the Israeli government would eventually adopt and finance Tevet projects. An encouraging development is that the Government Employment Service is currently working to implement two Tevet programs: Strive and Eshet Hayil, and it appears keen to adopt new methods introduced by Tevet. However, the Employment Service's capability is limited by budget restraints and the diversion of many of its former resources to the Mehalev program.
In the framework of the present report, it is difficult to evaluate the various projects implemented by non-profits in the framework of the Tevet program. Such an evaluation would require extensive field work. What we can say is that the advantage of those projects is that all of them involve ways of improving the employability of the participants. It seems to us that the emphasis in any future evaluation of the projects needs to measure their contribution to employability. In the area of job placement, evaluation needs to focus more on the quality of the job and less on the total number of jobs found.
The most promising and successful programs operating today are programs for outstanding university and college graduates--both Ethiopian immigrants and Arab citizens. These programs, which recruit the elite of each group, are very successful in terms of placement in senior positions and in prestigious firms, and they have an anti stigma effect. However, it is not clear whether promoting the most capable members of minority groups paves the way for the rest of the group or serves as a token goodwill gesture while leaving the majority behind. Current efforts and successes of the programs run by Kav Mashveh, Tebeka and Zinuk B'aliya are not being extended to rank and file workers.
The advantage of non-profits is that they are able to reflect the needs of the specific communities in which they work, to develop new models, and to engage in advocacy on behalf of their constituencies. Today, against the background of government retrenchment in the area of employment, nonprofits are increasingly taking on the role of service providers. This is both a positive and a negative development, as there is a danger that increasing service work may be taken on at the expense of grassroots research and development work.
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|Title Annotation:||Non-discriminatory hiring practices in Israel towards Arab Citizens, Ethiopian Israelis and new immigrants from Bukhara and the Caucasus|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2008|
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