Increasing women's paid work through a more equal division of unpaid work.
Kayan has been in existence for 10 years; its aim is to raise the status of Arab women within Arab society and as citizens of Israel. It has two main projects. One is a community project, in which we work with groups of women in the Northern part of Israel, in the Triangle and in the Central part of the country, where the emphasis is on personal and community empowerment. The second project involves providing free legal aid for Arab women in various areas, among them employment.
On May 1, 2008, Kayan distributed weekly diaries to Arab women, in which they were asked to document the hours of work spent on various household tasks, like laundry, cooking, and taking care of children, under the heading of "How many hours of housework do you do and what is their monetary value?"
The purpose of the first stage of the campaign was to raise women's awareness regarding the number of hours they invest in the home and to communicate to them, their families and society in general the message that this work constitutes a significant contribution to the family's welfare and quality of life.
The diaries were distributed mainly among women in the groups with which we work, most of them women who do not work outside of the home, some of them women employed outside the home.
Among women not working outside the home, it was found that more than 90% of the work done at home was done by the women. Among women working outside the home, women still performed above 70% of the work at home.
The reactions of the women participating in the campaign were varied; some became more aware of the work they invested at home and some expressed deep frustration over the number of hours of work they performed at home.
Results of our small survey show that Arab women are still relegated to the private sphere due to a very traditional and non-egalitarian division of home work.
What is our message to women?
First of all, that they need to respect the work that they do and to be aware of the number of hours they invest and to call for a more egalitarian division of labor.
A discussion of how women ought to be remunerated for the work they do at home suggests two possibilities: Demand an allowance from the National Insurance Institute or from the state for work done at home;
Call for social change--a more equal distribution between women and men of work done in the home.
Kayan tends to prefer the second option, for fear that the first option would perpetuate the existing situation and keep Arab women in the private sphere.
The bottom line is that the women at Kayan believe that it is impossible to speak about the status of Arab women or of women in general and it is impossible to encourage women to enter the work force and politics without referring to their status within the home. As long as the division of labor within the home is not egalitarian, it is impossible to speak about raising the status of women in the public sphere, for the necessary conditions are absent.
Respondent: Prof. Kathleen Lahey--Faculty of Law, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
I think you really neatly encapsulated the true contradictions of the problem, bringing us almost full circle back to the question of what is the proper public policy initiative. I would like to present a few points about taxes. Firstly, Israeli women are uniquely situated amongst all the women on the globe because of the existence of the women's tax credits and the children's credits that are available on the basis of gender. Now, it appears to me, on the basis of some of the research papers produced by branches of your government, that men now have their eyes on these credits and would like to have them transferred to them in order to turn them into cash in their hands, and I would say: if you are waiting for a reason to take to the streets, go ahead--just let me get out of the country first. These credits constitute a built-in labor force participation incentive measure, because women can only cash in on them by doing paid work. Now, you will hear government analysts say: "Well, women don't make full use of the credits,"--and the answer to that is that that is okay: they make use of some of them to extend their tax-free zone much further up the income scale than is currently possible for men. So I really think that this is one of the most brilliant things that I have seen in your tax structure, and it is well worth hanging on to. However, you need more than that, because the structure of the earned income tax credit has injected an element of gender bias into the system that was not there before. That needs to be neutralized. In addition, you only have to convince your government to roll back or slow down tax cuts, but to also start dealing with care responsibilities--the number one barrier to women's labor force participation--in its future budgetary needs. Study after study the OECD, the EC, by researchers in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, have established that if you lower the tax burden on women's work, you will increase their labor force participation, and that's because they can get to a higher after tax income through that route more efficiently than through anything else. In addition, there are fiscal measures that make it possible to induce women, or to induce men actually, to share unpaid work. For example, in Norway and Sweden policy analysts are now suggesting that the amount of parental leave available to a mother might be increased, if a family can show that the father also took parental leave, or both of them might get more, if they can show that they take alternate leaves. This is being done in order to help break down the sex-based stereotypes under which women are expected, without even being asked, to do all of the unpaid work and juggle that with poorly paid paid-work--and men are expected to follow the standard [breadwinner] model. That needs to be broken down too, and the theory is that a more egalitarian sharing of the unpaid work, as well as of the paid work, will be better for all human beings.
Wafa: I am Wafa from Neve Shalom. The problem is that Arab women do not have jobs. This is not a matter of culture. I would also like to talk about the matter of taxation. We know from the statistics that there are no job openings for Arab women, and that is the reason they do not work. Thus, only Jewish families can benefit from tax credits for women. For this reason, if I were in the Knesset, I would act to give [Arab] men tax credits, so at least the family can benefit. This is a very serious dilemma. I returned from Canada two weeks ago and could hardly believe what I saw at the airport. I saw a blonde woman working side by side with a woman of the same color as mine, and also a woman with a head covering. We would never see such a thing here.
Gal Horowitz: I am from Tapuach, a non-profit organization that operates technological training programs. I am the manager of programs that deal with employment, mainly women's employment. I wanted to ask the panel and the other participants, if they are not of the opinion that the work of the foundations, of private bodies and of the non-profit sector in the area of employment in general and women's employment in particular, does not have the effect of freeing the state of what is essentially the state's responsibility.
Nitza Berkovitch: I would like to speak about Bedouin women. A survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Bedouin Society at Ben Gurion University found that the percentage of Bedouin female university graduates working in full-time jobs in their areas of study is very high--about 67%. The areas of study are mainly teaching and social services. The activities of the Center and of the Association for the Promotion of the Education of Bedouin Women have proved themselves. When it is possible to get a college education, there are fewer cultural barriers. It is true that there is still a dilemma due to the fact that the areas of study are traditional ones--education and care work. As a person active in the Association, I can tell you that we have a dilemma over whether to give priority to scholarships for women studying biological sciences or engineering or women studying for professions needed in Bedouin society.
Yaakov Zigdon: In response to the comment regarding non-profit organizations: As a person working in a state service, I am all for working with non-profits. The state works with masses. I am supposed to take care of 200,000 persons. When you work with 200,000 persons, there will always be groups and individuals falling through the cracks. Non-profits can help in this matter--they add something that a state service lacks: spirit and soul. I am in favor of contracting out to non-profits in areas in which we need help. We work with
Tapuach; it is our executive arm in the area of computer skills for women. We have already done 2,400 training courses, and we have another 600 to 700 on the way. Thirty-five percent of women who took the courses were placed in jobs. We do not just provide training; the goal is a job. We also cooperate with Yedid, Be-Atzme, "Forty-Five Plus" and other nonprofits.
Vital Weisfelner: I would like to present a question to the Deputy Director of the Government Employment Service and to share my own experience. In April a Supreme Court petition was served against the Government Employment Service for age discrimination [in which I was the plaintiff]. In the job offers made public by the Service, onethird of the job openings state that the jobs are for persons aged 25 to 40. I give this as an example of shirking responsibility--this is your job: to find work for as many people as possible. When the Shas party [an Orthodox party] was in the government coalition, dozens of courses were set up for Mezuzah writing. I mention this as an example of what the state can do when it wants to. In the same manner, when the Russians immigrated to Israel, the state budgeted large sums to employers for hiring persons whose mother tongue was Russian. . . In my opinion, your job is to take care of unemployed persons. The [unemployment] figures are much larger than the official ones, which relate only to those persons who register at the Employment Service because they still hope to find jobs.
Yaakov Zigdon: Affirmative action is possible if it is done legally, by Cabinet or Knesset decision. We definitely do receive special budgets for particular groups. They tell us, "This matter was approved by the Knesset Finance Committee," or "This is for ultra-orthodox persons." The same thing happened in connection with Gush Katif; very clear government resolutions determined that there should be affirmative action for persons evacuated in the disengagement from Gush Katif. Government corporations were told that if they had two candidates with the requite qualifications, one from Gush Katif and the other from somewhere else, they should hire the person from Gush Katif. We also have affirmative action for Arabs in the Public Service Commission. This is legitimate.
Regarding the welfare reform program: While the program is supposed to be experimental, some persons have already declared it a success and are already working on extending it to cover the whole country and all 120,000 persons receiving income support. What is problematic in my opinion is that there are no criteria for success and how it is to be measured. In my opinion, the correct measure of success is the unemployed person at the end. If it is proven that the program really helps unemployed persons, I will be the first to say, "Close the Government Employment Service; we have a better alternative." My main critique of the welfare reform program is that it is pouring out a huge sum of money but getting very unimpressive results. The money does not get to the unemployed, but rather to the owners of the placement companies. It does not even get to their employees, for they earn wages very similar to those of the people they assist.
Sigal Shelach: Concerning Arab women: While it is true that the main problem is demand for Arab women in the labor market, especially for those women who cannot work outside of their own communities. At the same time, I would like to state that things can and are being done. I will mention a number of initiatives. We are developing an initiative, together with the Comverse corporation, that involves contracting with an organization to provide QA services in Arab locales--training followed by job placement outside the locality. There have been successes in finding jobs for women who did not think they would be able to work outside their own locales. It is true that there are transportation problems--sometimes no public transportation at all, and sometimes no subsidies for transportation, but there are ways of overcoming these problems. I believe that programs that are targeted and that work with individuals can find solutions for the Arab community. I did not speak about entrepreneurship; in the Arab community such initiatives can serve as temporary solutions and provide the way out of poverty. There is no doubt that education is the main solution. Today Arab women with college educations work at the same rate as Jewish women with college educations, though the former constitute a very small group.
Katherine Lahey: I would like to just comment that Canada has been going through parallel agonies, similar to some of the issues that are being discussed, particularly in relation to four indigenous communities that have no legal status. Billions of dollars have been poured into programs that do all of the different kinds of things that have been described here, and more, including devolution of self-governments along with the money to the local communities and the variety of financing arrangements that have sort of flowed from that. One of the most heartbreaking things about these programs is that no matter how seriously and with what degree of commitment they are pursued, the real problem is that we are dealing with centuries of cultural hierarchies and differences. Then comes the next election and the cry for government accountability, then comes the audit, the assessment, the measuring of how many people were placed in jobs and how many hours they worked and how long did it last and how many were women and all of those things. All too often, what happens is that the negatives, even if they are small, tend to overshadow the big picture of what is really going on.
Advocate Shirin Batshon, Kayan-Feminist Organization
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|Title Annotation:||Adva Center Conference on Budgets and Gender|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2008|
|Previous Article:||Empowerment programs and professional training.|