Sociologists around the world have recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionate impacts on different socio-economic groups, which has exacerbated existing inequalities between these groups. The pandemic has highlighted and reinforced existing social and economic inequalities in employment opportunities and incomes, particularly for women and ethnic minorities. In this study, we will present some preliminary analyzes to explain the manner in which this epidemic has economically affected Palestinian men and women and the various religious denominations within Palestinian society in Israel.
The Palestinian Arab community in Israel constitutes more than a fifth of the Israeli population and is composed of a Muslim majority (about 84%) and a Christian and Druze minority (8%) each. These groups also differ in terms of their socioeconomic characteristics (such as average educational attainment and employment rates), their attitudes towards women’s status in society, and modern urban growth rates.
Palestinian society in Israel has undergone a major social transformation in recent decades. Perhaps the most significant change occurred is the marked increase in educational attainment rates among members of the Palestinian community in Israel, for both men and women. This increase led to an increase in the number of Palestinian men who took professional and administrative positions. Between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of men holding these positions increased from 15.2% to 20% (CBS, 2011-2016). Simultaneously, the rate of women’s participation in the formal employment sector doubled from 10% in 1970 and 20% in 2010 (Khattab and Miari, 2013) to 34% in 2018 (CPS, 2018). Employment rates are also relatively higher Female university graduates, most of whom work in female-dominated professions such as teaching, nursing, and social care (Junai, 2018). The increasing participation of Palestinian women in the Israeli labor market is particularly noteworthy, given the low labor force participation rates of women in this society. Despite this, women’s employment rates are still much lower than those of Palestinian men and Israeli Jewish women, as the percentage of Palestinian men reached 65% and Jewish women 64% in 2018 (Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, 2018).
The social, economic and demographic transformations that occurred in the Palestinian community residing in Israel, which we referred to above, represented by the expansion of education and employment opportunities accompanied by structural changes in the Israeli economy, led to the emergence of a new Palestinian middle class in recent years (Haider, 2019). Recent economic data shows that between 23% and 28% of Palestinian families in Israel can be classified as “middle class”, 3% can be considered “upper class”, while the remaining families belong to the “lower class”. Despite the emergence of a middle class in Palestinian society, job opportunities for most Palestinians in Israel are very limited. This is particularly the case for women. The main driver behind this socio-economic inequality is discrimination between ethno-religious communities in cities and villages that lack resources and strong infrastructure, as well as institutional discrimination and blatant bias against Palestinians. This relative economic inequality in Palestinian society is manifested in the fact that approximately 60% of Palestinian men work in low-level and skilled jobs compared to about 27% of Jewish men (CBS, 2015).
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