The immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel has been a mixed success story: On the one hand, statistics show that the majority of members of the community are working; on the other hand, the jobs they are doing are not the high-quality ones all Israelis hope for. To correct that, the government announced this week that it would spend NIS 55 million ($14 million) on programs to improve the work status of Ethiopian immigrants. Job training, academic programs, and grants to employers for hiring workers of Ethiopian descent are all part of the new effort initiated by the government Ministerial Committee on the Integration of Israeli Citizens of Ethiopian Descent into Israeli Society.
The project is to be carried out over the next four years, with the aim of upgrading the skills of at least 3,600 Ethiopian-descent youths and adults, enabling them to access the high-quality jobs in Israel’s high-tech economy.
A study released last June by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel — based on numbers supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics — showed that in both employment and education, Israelis of Ethiopian descent have made great progress over the past two decades. By 2011, 72% of Ethiopian Israelis at prime working ages (25-54) were employed, only slightly lower than the 79% employment rate of the non-Ethiopian Jewish population. And, more of them were working full-time.
Nevertheless, there were still significant gaps between Ethiopian-background Israelis and others. About 21% of Ethiopian Israelis educated in Israel are to be found in the top levels of the labor market, as compared to about 40% among the rest of the Jewish population, and about 60% are employed in occupations for low-skilled or unskilled workers, compared to 41% among the rest of the Jewish population (among first-generation immigrants, both those metrics were far lower).