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Arab Workers

Arab Workers

The Arab population in Israel constitutes about 20% of the total population in Israel, and amounts to approximately one and a half million citizens. The Arab population is disadvantaged socio-economically, as 54% of Arab families live under the poverty line, while the overall poverty rate in Israel is 20%. In June 2011 Kav LaOved opened its third branch in the city of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in the country. The Nazareth branch serves the Arab population by making the organization’s services more accessible to Arab workers via an exclusively Arab staff who provide assistance, counseling and legal representation.


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Gaps between Arab and Jewish workers in the labor market exist in almost every aspect: 40.8% of Arab citizens participate in the Israeli labor force, as opposed to 60.7% of Jewish citizens. This gap originates mostly from the low participation rates of Arab women; only around 20% of Arab women take part in the labor market, as opposed to 60% of Jewish women. Furthermore, the average monthly wage of an Arab citizen is 5,419 NIS as opposed to 7,949 NIS for a Jewish citizen; the male Jewish worker earns 42% more than the male Arab worker, while the female Jewish worker earns 28% more than the Arab female worker.

85% of Arab citizens live in communities found mostly in the periphery: the Galilee, the “Triangle” (a concentration of Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green Line) and the Negev. The lack of employment opportunities in Arab communities creates a situation in which the choice is to either work in the local education system, or blue collar work (i.e. manual labor, oftentimes with low wages), mostly for the Jewish sector. Arab workers are mainly employed in low paying jobs, and are almost completely missing from high-paying sectors such as high-tech, banking, insurance and finance. Over half of Arab workers are employed in construction, industrial work, maintenance/repair and commerce.

According to a report by the Adva Center (2013), 64% of Arab households headed by a salaried worker fall in the lower economic stratum, in contrast with 30% of Jewish households headed by a salaried worker. The report also shows that Arab workers’ conditions have worsened compared to previous years, such that more and more Arab households are joining this lower stratum. The lower stratum includes households headed by a salaried worker that make up to 75% of the median gross income in Israel; the middle stratum makes between 75% and 125% of median gross income; and the top stratum includes households that make 125% and more of median gross income.

Composition of the three economic strata in 2002 and 2010 (among households headed by a salaried worker):

Top Stratum

Middle Stratum

Lower Stratum





















“The Middle Stratum in Israel 1992-2010 – Situation Report”, The Adva Centre, January 2013.


Broad violation of labor rights: Appeals made by Arab workers show violations of almost all labor rights under Israeli protective legislation, such as lack of payment for overtime, holidays or vacation, pensions, compensation and/or notice if the worker is fired. Even workers who are included in collective agreements and/or extension orders, and are thus entitled to a broader range of rights (i.e. construction workers), do not actually benefit from these agreements and orders. The same goes for Arab workers in contracting companies, mainly in the security and cleaning sectors, who are more prone to having their rights violated, even though these rights are guaranteed under extension orders.

Exploitation of female workers: Appeals made by female Arab workers, especially those employed inside Arab communities, reflect a wide range of violations of their protective labor rights, the first and most widespread being the right to minimum wage. In most cases, pay slips are inaccurate and do not represent the extent of the worker’s employment. By reporting less hours worked, employers can hide the fact that the worker is actually paid a sum much lower than the minimum wage.

Discrimination in hiring: Arab workers experience discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality and gender. The discrimination is present as early as the hiring process and prevents the employment of Arab . By requiring military service or rejecting candidates due to their religious attire (such as the headscarf for Muslim women), employers discriminate against Arab workers on the basis of nationality and/or religion. Employment discrimination is evident in setting differential conditions for different workers. Examples include lower wages for Arab workers compared with Jewish workers in the same workplace; prohibiting Arab workers from speaking their mother tongue amongst themselves and/or with costumers; and prohibiting Arab workers from growing a beard for religious reasons, etc. For significant change to occur, the Israeli authorities, especially the Department of Enforcement and the Commission for Equal Labor Opportunities in the Ministry of Economy, must increase their activity among the Arab population.


In 2012, around 4,000 Arab workers were exposed to their basic labor rights and labor laws through radio, newspaper, the Kav LaOved website, e-counseling, workshops and face-to-face consultations.

In March 2013, Kav LaOved began a new three year project focused on female Arab workers’ rights called “Her Right to Fair Employment,” in partnership with Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, the Tel Aviv University Program for Clinical Legal Education, and Kayan – Feminist Organization. The project aims to advance and uphold Arab women’s rights in the secondary labor market, while raising awareness, promoting equal and gender-sensitive policy among stakeholders, and addressing violations via consulting Arab women and legal representation in labor court.