Palestinian Workers: The division of the Arab labour force – Emmanuel Farajun

10 July 1980

in Articles, Forbidden Agendas, Khamsin 7

By Emmanuel Farajun, Tel Aviv, July 1979. Originally published in Hebrew by The Israeli Socialist Organization (MATZPEN) in “Dapim Adumim” (“Red Pages”), no 5, May 1978.

 

Palestinian Workers, A Reserve Army of Labour in the Israeli Economy

Chapter-2: The division of the Arab labour force between occupations and enterprises

As we have already seen, the proportion of Arabs and Jews in the labour force is 1 to 5, i.e. Arab labour constitutes 17 per cent, or a sixth, of the labour force of the Israeli economy. This includes the workers from the occupied territories, of course. But in order to grasp the real contribution of this labour and its role in the economy, we ought to examine the determinants which typify it. In the following chapter we shall examine the distribution of Arab labour, compared to Jewish labour, according to three determinants:

  1. The economic sector of employment: agriculture, construction, services, finance, etc.
  2. The professional character of the work within each sector: skilled industrial workers as opposed to services worker, scientists, teachers, clerks, etc.
  3. The enterprises according to ownership and size: public or private, large corporations or small workshops.

One of the important determinants in the development of salaried Jewish labour in Israel is, as is well known, its concentration in the service sector: clerical work, administration, finance, trade, etc., and a constant decrease in the number of Jewish workers in basic pro­duction areas: industry, construction and agriculture, as well as a decrease in the number of Jewish workers in services like maintenance, restaurant work, etc. The above mentioned deve­lopment can be measured in two ways: by absolute figures of the industrial workers in Israel and in the percentage of industrially employed Jewish labour (trying to find out, if this percentage is on the increase, on the decrease or remains static). The latter holds greater interest of course, since the number of salaried workers in Israel increases one way or another over the years, with the growth of the population. The question is then – what is the general structure of employment and how does it develop? We shall soon see that there is a very strong long-term trend, for Jews to relinquish the three key occupations mentioned above. This trend exists independently of the economic situation and manifests itself both in boom years and in recession years. In the last few years, due to the recession no doubt, there has been a decrease in the absolute number of Jewish workers in all the above mentioned occupations.

Arab labour, however, has always been employed by and large in these three main productive areas – agriculture, industry and crafts and construction. Approximately 86 per cent of all workers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are thus employed, as well as some 70 per cent of the Arab residents of Israel. In other words, 78 per cent of the Arabs employed in Israel are employed in these three main production areas, as opposed to 36 per cent of all the Jewish workers in 1976.

Moreover, the Arabs tend to work principally in the “productive services”, i.e. services from which a private businessman profits directly. The Jews, on the other hand, tend to work mainly in the Government services, which are non-profit making and are part of the establishment or are services supplied by the State in order to ensure continual and smooth economic and social activity. These include clerks, policemen, teachers, etc.

The next table, taken from manpower surveys, sums up the development of the division of occu­pations of the two nationalities in Israel during the years 1969-1976. The occupations are divided into two categories: A – industrial workers, craftsmen, agricultural and con­struction workers, both skilled and unskilled; B – academics, clerks, service workers, salesmen, managers and engineers.

The second category includes upper grade production workers, such as engineers, though their number is relatively small. In other words, category A includes all “blue collar” workers, though this, too, is not entirely accurate, as cleaners, who are “blue collar” workers, are included in category A.

The table shows the percentage of A and B workers in each nationality by the year.

Occupational division according to nationalities 1
Israeli residents only 1969 to 1976. All figures denote percentages of the overall labour force of each particular nationality
Year
Jews-A
Jews-B
Arabs-A
Arabs-B
1969
45.2
54.8
74.0
26.1
1970
44.4
55.6
71.0
28.5
1971
43.0
57.0
73.0
27.0
1973
40.5
59.5
65.7
34.3
1975
36.8
62.5
72.0
29.0
1976
36.1
64.0
67.7
32.3
A = “blue collar workers” – production
B = “white collar workers” – services

 

The above table is based on tables showing the occupational distribution of the total labour force and the Jewish labour force.

The following table is intended to complete the picture by detailing the absolute number of workers according to their specific occupations of the two nationalities.

The table refers to Israeli residents only. Here are some of the occupations: Professional-­technical: teachers, accountants, social workers, nurses, technicians, draughtsmen; Academic: researchers, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers; Services: kitchen workers, charwomen, cleaners, hairdressers, policemen, porters.2

Occupational distribution of the Employees in Israel according to nationality 3
(Israeli Residents only. All figures in ‘000)
Jewish Employees
|
Arab Employees
Year:
1971
1973
1975
1976
|
1971
1973
1975
1976
Overall no-of-Employees:
902.5
981
995.2
1,018
|
94.6
107
107.8
109

 

The above two tables indicate that Jewish labour tends to be concentrated mainly in “white collar” and service type occupations – in 1976, 64 percent of the Jewish workers were in this category. This figure results from a continual increase in category B – from 5.8 per cent to 64 per cent. On the other hand, the Arab labour force tended to be concentrated in clearly productive occupations – the Arabs comprised 67 per cent of category A in 1976. Here too category A slowly decreased proportionately but this is not continued, as it is clearly dependent on the state of the economy; but in spite of the decrease, the majority of Arabs remain in category A. More detailed examination of the division of the labour force according to nationality and occupation shows that whereas the percentage of Jewish labour is continuously decreasing in each productive occupation (for instance, Jewish skilled labour constituted 28 per cent, 26 per cent and 25 per cent in 1973, 1975 and 1976 respectively), the decrease within category A among the Arabs has to do mainly with a continual decrease only in one area, i.e. agriculture, and in the areas of industry, construction and other skilled and unskilled occupations there is a continuous increase.

There are two reasons for the decrease in the Arab labour force in agriculture: firstly, the unavailability of land. Most of the lands, most suitable for modern agriculture, have been con­fiscated for Jewish kibbutzim and moshavim. Three out of every four dunams (a dunam – 1/10 hectare, or 1/4 acre approximately) which belonged once to Arab villagers in 1948 have been confiscated and this is still going on. In his book, “The Arabs in Israel”, Sabri Jeris tells of systema­tic discrimination by the government against Arab agricultural production in favour of Jewish agricultural production. The second reason is a more general one: in every economy which undergoes industrialisation and changes over to mass-production, there is a tendency to de­crease the number of agricultural workers and increase the number of industrial workers. However, in Israel there is a decrease in the number of Jewish agricultural workers without there being a corresponding increase in the number of industrial workers – rather it is in the number of administration, management, finance and professional workers.

Where does the Arab overflow from agriculture go to, then? The answer, according to various tables in this chapter, is clear: to other productive occupations and to the services, i.e. cleaners, watchmen, etc., according to Uniform classification. Only in these occupations does the number of Arab workers rise yearly, category B occupations.

So far we can sum up with a simple statement: apart from agriculture, the importance of which is generally decreasing in the Israeli economy, there is a rise in the number of Arab “blue collar”‘ workers.

There is one other interesting development, apparent only in the last couple of years, since no data was available previously: the proportion of skilled/non skilled Arab workers in industry and construction, is continuously increasing despite a severe recession in the Israeli economy.

Number of skilled workers divided by number of unskilled workers in industry and construction 4
Year
Jews
Arabs
(Israeli residents)
1973
5.1
2.3
1975
5.1
3.2
1976
4.7
3.5

While there are five times as many skilled as unskilled Jewish workers, this proportion remaining more or less constant, there is an increase from 2.3 in 1973 to 3.5 in 1976 among Arab workers living in Israel. No similar data about workers from the occupied territories is available, but it seems that there is a similar trend there too. This shows the ever growing dependence of Israeli industry and construction on Arab labour. It is clear that it is the Arab workers from the occupied territories (with whom we shall deal later on) who replace the unskilled workers, whose numbers, among Israelis has been on the decline since 1976.

The dynamics of increasing concentration of Arabs in skilled-productive work, overcomes well ­known political obstacles: a large proportion of Israeli industry is geared directly or indirectly to the production of arms, ammunitions or spare parts for the armaments industry. Arabs are almost totally barred from the metal and electronics factories connected with the military. Likewise, there are hardly any Arab workers in large public enterprises like the Dead Sea industries, the Koor Corporation, the ports, etc. The diamond industry and more spe­cialised public corporations, like “Tnuvah”, try to avoid employing Arabs too. There are daily advertisements in the Israeli press for skilled workers, with one of the specification being that the applicants should be “army veterans”. The term “army veteran” has become a polite code word for “Jewish”, in the same manner that the word “member of the minorities” has become a code word for “Arab”. Large companies, such as insurance companies, tend to advertise openings for switch-board operators or secretaries with the one specification being that the applicants “have completed their army service”.5

This discrimination is manifested particularly in large corporations, most of which belong to the Histadrut or to the government: the cement factories, the chemical industries, metal factories like Koor, the ports do not employ Arabs in the majority of cases. Being based on more or less regular labour power they are not greatly effected by market fluctuations. The military and aviation industry, like the huge “Tadiran” complex, do not take in Arab workers as well. This industry employs, according to various estimations, approximately half of the Jewish industrial workers. There are also some sections of private industry which, like the diamond industry, have traditionally barred Arabs, although recently a small number of Arabs has been admitted to the diamond industry.

The general picture, then, is that the Arab industrial work force is to be found mainly in small to medium private enterprises. Such enterprises pay low wages (about half of the wages paid in the public sector) and are given to market fluctuations. Arabs tend to work for the civil market, to produce consumer goods (food, building materials, wood and rubber materials, textiles, etc.). It is doubtful whether such enterprises could develop and progress without Arab labour. Some times these enterprises suffer acute shortages of man power so as to force them to farm out work on a contractual basis to small workshops in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, since it is easier to employ women and girls there, particularly in the fashion industry: “the fashion industry suffers from a shortage of skilled manpower, particularly cutters and sample makers… the factories have to compete for manpower by offering better wages… the supply of skilled workers is low… a large fashion manufacturer complained to me of having to depend on sewing work-shops beyond the green line. He said that if there was a political change, the fashion industry would be harmed and would probably not be able to meet demand for its goods…”.6

Small sewing workshops have been set up recently in some Arab villages in Israel, like Umm el-Fahem, for instance. Their owners pay the women half the current wage paid in Tel Aviv but due to the social conditions, and Arab family structure, many women and young girls prefer working for half the wages close to home rather than for full wages in Tel Aviv. (A daily wage in these sewing workshops was about 40 IL at the beginning of 1978. See chapter 4).

With the increasing importance of private industry, however, many of the obstacles facing the Arab worker trying to get a skilled job have been removed. The determinant factor here – as always with these workers – is the market. The Israeli economy is still suffering a chronic shortage of manpower in all its productive areas. This shortage is particularly evident in private industry where the average salary is about half that of the public sector. The Jewish change-over from production to services, causes an increasing flow of Arab manpower, which is the only reserve force private industry has.

Detailed distribution – Occupations

The above analysis gives a general picture. Now let us examine the distribution of Arab wor­kers in specific occupations. The most reliable data to be found is in the population census. The last census was taken in 1972. The data below is based on the answers given to surveys and questionnaires by a few thousand families. In the uniform classification into occupations from 1972, the occupations are divided into 10 major groups, each of which was further divided into 8-10 sub-groups. The following table shows the distribution of the salaried workers of the two nationalities, living in Israel, in detail. This table, from 1972, also shows the wage per hour of each nationality. We have copied from the Appendix to the Statistical Quarterly, 1976, No.7 (P.92) and No.8, only those occupations in which more than one per cent of the

salaried workers of each nationality are employed. We additionally detailed the occupations and the proportion of the salaries of the two nationalities. (Please note that this table is from 1972, the year of the last census).

Occupational and wage distribution – for the two nationalities, Population census 1972 7
Code
Jews
% all emp
Jews
Wage
P/Hr
Arabs
% all emp
Arabs
Wage
P/hr
Occuptn
Prop of
salaries
Remarks
02
1.3
7.9
Engineers
A high Jewish
concentration
as opposed to
Arab “white
collar”
occupations
09
1.7
8.4
Secondary school teachers
10
4.2
7.1
5.5
5.8
Primary
school teachers
1.2
13
1.1
5.8
Writers, artists
15
2.3
4.5
1.2
3.0
Nurses
1.5
17
2.5
5.4
Technicians
24
2.3
8.4
Production managers
31
5.3
4.9
Accountants
32
3.6
3.9
Secretaries
33
2.1
4.4
Storekeepers
37
1.2
4.1
Office workers
38
2.3
4.2
General clerks
41
3.2
5.1
3.5
3.9
Self employed – commerce
1.3
44
2.7
3.4
2.2
2.3
Salesmen & shop assistants
52
1.1
2.5
Waiters
54
2.0
2.7
Charwomen
57
1.3
3.9
2.5
3.5
Policemen
1.1
59
4.1
2.8
2.8
2.5
General services workers
1.1
Cleaners, watchmen
60
1.7
5.3
5.1
3.5
(Working) farm owners
1.5
62
2.8
2.9
5.5
2.7
Skilled agricultural workers
1.1
High Arab concentration
66
0.8
2.6
2.1
2.8
Unskilled agricultural workers
0.9
The only occupation with a higher salary for Arabs
71
4.2
4.1
4.1
3.2
Tinsmiths, welders
1.3
72
2.1
4.2
2.8
3.0
Mechanics
1.4
73
1.4
3.3
Plumbers
74
2.4
4.3
1.3
2.8
Electricians
1.5
77
1.3
2.3
Skilled workers – food industry
1.1
78
2.6
3.7
8.8
3.3
Carpenters
1.1
Very high Arab concentration
79
1.6
3.3
1.7
2.4
Weevers
1.3
80
2.7
2.7
1.9
2.0
Tailors
1.3
85
2.2
4.7
6.9
3.5
Construction workers
1.3
High Arab concentration
88
3.9
4.2
5.7
3.3
Drivers
1.3
90
1.1
3.6
1.0
3.1
Porters & dockers
1.2
96
1.0
3.1
Mineral industry workers
98
1.7
2.9
General construction workers
1.1
10% of all Arab workers
99
1.4
3.4
8.3
3.9
Unskilled – industrial & construction workers
1.1
Unclassified unskilled
Total
100%
4.6
100%
3.3
1.4
Jewish salaries are 40% higher than Arab salaries

 

Conclusions:

  1. In all the occupations specified, in fact in almost all the occupations in the full table, the Jewish worker receives a higher salary than the Arab worker, doing the same work. The difference in each occupation is about 20 per cent on the average and the general difference is 40 per cent (see chapter 4).
  2.  The full table includes some 100 specific occupations. More than 60 per cent of the Arab salaried workers in Israel, in 1972, were employed in 16 typical production occupations. What’s more, about 46 per cent, i.e. almost half the Arab work force, concentrates in only 7 occupations: farmers working their own land, skilled agricultural workers, tinsmiths, carpenters, construction workers, drivers and unskilled workers in industry and construction.
  3.  Jews, on the other hand, are scattered over the occupational field much more evenly, there are only three occupations which employ 4 or more per cent Jews: accountants (5.3 per cent), general services workers, tinsmiths and welders, as opposed to 8 occupations with such a high percentage among the Arabs.
  4.  The full table shows that there are some industries where there is a minimal number of Arabs (less than 0.1 per cent). For example, the diamond industry, which employs 0.8 per cent of the salaried Jewish workers, i.e. 7,000 workers.
  5.  Service occupations which employ Arabs are almost all productive services, restaurant work, hotel workers, etc. Many of these serve the Israeli tourist industry.
  6.  There is a high concentration of Arab workers in factories, which, because of their productive nature, are small, i.e. tinsmiths, welders, wood workers, drivers, construction and agricultural workers.
  7.  The table enables us to calculate the overall number of salaried workers of both nationalities within each occupation, through the overall number of salaried workers in 1972. This calculation shows that in some occupations the Arab workers, from the territories currently occupied by Israel, constitute a majority. (See the section on the overall contribution of Arab workers).

Workers from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the north of Sinai

32 per cent of the Arab residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip currently employed, are employed in Israel.8 The importance of employment in Israel for salaried workers in the occupied territories is of course, even greater: even according to official figures 50 per cent of the salaried workers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are employed in Israel. This figure has continually increased since the 1967 occupation as a result of unem­ployment in the occupied territories, although since 1967 there has not been an increase in the overall number of industrial workers in the occupied territories. In the last ten years the number of industrial workers is estimated by the Bank of Israel and the Ministry of La­bour, to be 15,000.9

Although the overall proportion of workers from the occupied territories in the Israeli work force, is not particularly large – 7-10 per cent, in some industries and in some occupations, like construction, carpentry and manual labour, it is as high as 40-50 per cent.

Moreover, these workers are the flexible and “freer” part of the labour force: when, for example, there was a huge boom in the Israeli construction industry in 1970-73, three fifths, i.e. 60 per cent, of the growth in labour power in the construction industry originated in the occupied territories,10 and another 20 per cent from Israeli Arabs. All the surveys done by the Bank of Israel stress the flexibility of this labour force.

“Manpower surveys tend to show stability in the number of the men employed (despite the recession) and the continual growth in the number of the women employed in services. The data shows an adjustment of the supply of labour to the various components of the demand, a phenomenon which existed in the boom years too: a change in immigration patterns, in the tendency to work within marginal age groups, a flexibility in the depth of employment and mobility of workers from the occupied territories working both inside the Israeli economy and outside of it – all these things explain the unusual slowdown of production without a significant increase of unemployment”.11

The Jewish-Israeli establishment admits, of course, only a small number of Arabs with higher education to the civil and social service:

“An analysis of the employment ration in relation to level of education shows that contrary to the situation of the Jewish population in Israel the ratio of employment in the occupied territories decreases the higher the level of education (measured by years of schooling). This is apparently a result of a shortage of the right kind of work for educated workers. The same problem exists among educated non-Jewish workers in Israel among whom the level of unemployment is relatively high”.12

The distribution into sectors among Palestinian workers from the occupied territories is also clear-cut: a high concentration in basic production areas. Here, too, there is a tendency towards industry and these workers fill the vacancies in the unskilled worker category.

Distribution (into occupations) of workers from the occupied territories
Year
Total
(in ‘000)
Agriculture
(per cent)
Industry
(per cent)
Construction
(per cent)
The rest
(per cent)
1970
20
24
11
54
10
1972
52
23
17
50
10
1975
66
14
18
54
13
1976
65
15
20
49
15
Note:
Increasing
Decreasing
Increasing
Stable
Increasing

 

This table deals only with the 65,000 regular and officially employed workers. One suspects that the tens of thousands of workers employed through contractors (Ra’isim) tend to work more in agriculture and construction and less in industry.

The proportion of workers from the occupied territories in the service industries is con­tinuously increasing. Many local authorities depend on them for sanitary work, garbage collection, etc. In October 1977 the public learnt that the municipality of Holon em­ployed, through a contractor, 12 year old boys in the industrial zones and in the commercial centres, cleaning restaurants and streets.

These workers are also employed in maintainance and in cleaning jobs in large and small private institutions. The Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem employs scores of Arab cleaners from the West Bank both in the laboratories and in the wards – in this case the supervisors are Jewish cleaners who have been with the hospital for a long time.

The high dependency of the moshavim and the kibbutzim on Arab labour is well known. When, as a result of fighting, hundreds of Lebanese workers could not cross the border, an acute shor­tage of manpower was felt during harvest time in the Hula valley kibbutzim. Israeli agriculture, which exports more and more (about 50 per cent of agricultural produce is ex­ported nowadays) – was able to make the move to labour consuming crops like vegetables, flowers, strawberries – only thanks to the cheap and abundant labour power of the occupied territories. During the busy seasons, scores of workers arrive each morning at every moshav to do all the work: from weeding and thinning to harvesting. Most of the Jewish moshavniks have become farm-owners who supervise, occasionally operate the heavy equipment, and do the necessary paper-work. A large proportion of these Arab workers are not registered anywhere and there is no reason for them to report their work in any of the surveys upon which the official statistics are based.

Age groups of industrial and construction workers

The consistent trend of Jewish workers towards “white collar” jobs and particularly to the services, manifests itself in two ways: firstly, by workers moving from production jobs in factories and on building sites to service jobs. This takes place during times of economic recession when there are no new investments and factories close down, move their workers from production jobs to a service position in the same company. An example of the move from producing products to marketing or importing them is the “Friedman” factory in Jerusalem, which stopped producing heaters and started importing and marketing them. Secondly, the move from industry to services, as it is manifested by the flow of young workers into the market, into certain sectors: this flow can be shown by studying the age groups of workers in the various occupations. In the construction industry, for instance, most of the Jewish workers are relatively old – over 35. In other words, the number of young Jews turning to construction for their livelihood is on the decline. Most of the Jewish construction workers have been at it a long time, having established themselves by receiving perks which assist them in re­maining in this particular line of work. Therefore there are tens of thousands of Jewish em­ployees in construction, but many of them are on staff, mainly dealing with administration and office work. This figure includes some 4,000 building contractors as well. On the other hand, the young labour force, which comprises the bulk of the construction industry, is mostly made up, as we shall see, of Arabs.

It is known, for instance, that the regular staff of the “Solel-Boneh” company, which is a construction company, is made up mainly of Jews. This staff is engaged in maintainance, ad­ministration and office work and has no direct contact with the company’s building sites. They depend very little on the seasonal or economic fluctuations of the construction in­dustry. The temporary, daily workers in “Sole1- Boneh” on the other hand, are mostly Arab working on the sites as labourers and foremen. Since “Solel-Boneh” is a public company, with a responsibility that goes beyond making a profit, it regards the situation as abnormal – one of crisis. The company feels that Jews should be working on the building sites and the fact that young Jews are not coming to the construction industry for employment denotes a crisis, which worries “The Construction Workers Union Committee”, which incidentally is com­pletely dominated by Jews, although more than half the construction workers in Israel are Arabs. Mr. Amster, the secretary of the committee warned that “many Jewish skilled workers are leaving the profession (as a result of the recession) and even if there is to be a recovery, they would not return. The younger generation tends not to work in construction and the (Jewish) reserve is dwindling annually”.13

Let’s examine then age distribution according to occupations. We shall see that Mr. Amster is not unduly worried. The figures in the following table indicate a flow of young Arabs into production and productive services (i.e. hotels, restaurants), while the Jewish workers in these sectors are much older. The economy pushes young Jewish workers in another direction: the public services, office work, finance, etc. 70 per cent, for example, of Arab industrial and construction workers are in the 14-34 age bracket whereas 65 per cent of the Jewish workers are over 34. The same goes for workers employed by private service business, big or small: here too young Arab workers are over represented, whereas among the Jews the si­tuation is the opposite. Young Jewish workers can be found in this table to be in financial business and public services in far greater numbers than proportional representation would allow.

Distribution into sectors (percentages) according to age groups – 1975 14
 
Ages
Total
Agri
Industry
Constructn
Bus
Serv
Pub
Serv
Personal
Serv
Arabs
14-24
30
26
40
30
20
19
34
Arabs
24-34
30
26
30
34
27
32
29
Arabs
34-50
28
30
22
26
31
30
25
Jews
14-24
20
23
22
15
26
17
13
Jews
24-34
22
20
23
21
26
26
10
Jews
34-50
30
25
27
34
24
30
10

 

Note: The total is not 100% because the higher ages are not quoted, since they do not re­present common trends in the last twenty years.

In order to get the right idea one has to compare age distribution with the total (in the first column). Whereas the distribution of Jewish workers is almost identical with total distribution, the total distribution of Arab workers though almost constant (30-30-28), ­tends to decline sharply (in Industry) in the age bracket 40-30-22, which proves, again, the in­creasing flow of young Arabs into industry.

The sociologists Matras and Wientraub from the Brookdale Institute in Jerusalem sum up the differences between the flow of Arab and Jewish youths into various occupations in a survey completed in 1977: “The basic and obvious difference in the patterns of professional and edu­cational progress in Israel is between Jews and non-Jews. We cannot fully deal with this very important subject in this survey. For Jewish men, patterns of different occupations between father and son, reflect a process of penetrating a wider range of modern economy occupations and a break-away from the tendency to continue in the same line as one’s parent. This process includes a move upwards – into academic occupations, specialised jobs and management jobs as well as into the lower ‘white collar’ jobs and downward to skilled and semiskilled work.

For non-Jewish men, the patterns of change from one generation to the next, reflect almost exclusively a move away from agriculture to ‘blue collar’ jobs (i.e. skilled and semi-skilled labouring jobs), with a limited move towards ‘white collar’ occupations.”15

This concise summary of the difference between the two nationalities is based on surveys examined by the writers in their work.

Overall contribution to production in israel

Because of the high concentration of Arab workers in production and services and because of their relatively low wages, their overall contribution to the surplus value and the absolute value of goods in Israel is particularly high. Almost as high, in fact, as the overall contribution of the Jewish workers, although there are 5 times more Jewish workers in Israel than Arabs.

In measuring their overall contribution, it is best to concentrate on production, i.e. the construction industry, factories and agriculture, presuming that manufactured products are included throughout. This, of course, is not completely accurate, since it does not take into account the hotel industry, the tourist industry, transport, etc. But there is no doubt that even if we add other productive ventures, the picture will remain more or less the same, since there are as many Arab workers in the services as there are in the basic production lines. Any measure of the overall contribution must be seen as a preliminary one, not as a totally accurate one, for several reasons: there exists in Israel, for instance, a “black” market, which does not appear in any official document, except, perhaps the Shimron report on organised crime and in Baruch Nadel’s book “The Nadel Report”16. The “black” market does not refrain from employing Arab workers. On the contrary: there are few doubts that many of the “underground” factories do employ Arabs, who have no privileges, who are not organised in trade unions and in the case of workers from the territories occupied in 1967, do not even have work permits. All the above points to the fact the real contribution of the Arab workers is much larger than anything disclosed by official statistics. Moreover, it is politically difficult for factories to fire Jewish workers, even during prolonged economic recession. Small factories do not face such problems, but with large factories upon which the economy of most development towns tend to depend, the dismissal of several hundreds of workers is always accompanied by political and public pressure to refer the dismissals and invest in the ailing factories in order to avoid having to dismiss Jewish workers. Many factories do not like firing Jewish workers, since Jewish workers are so rare on the Israeli economic market. Many armament and metal factories prefer keeping their workers even during recession periods ­though there might not be any work for them – in order not to lose skilled manpower, which cannot be replaced by hiring Arabs, since such factories produce mainly arms, ammunition and military equipment.

Every Arab worker, on the other hand, is presumably necessary. He has not got a political defense system (the newspapers would not protest if “Friedman” fired 100 workers from the West Bank). He can always be re-hired. This is particularly true of unskilled workers, i.e. the majority of the workers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Comparing the overall number of Jewish workers in industry, construction, agriculture and the mines to the overall number of Arab workers – we shall find that the first figure is on the decline, both absolutely and proportionally, whereas the second is continually increasing, both figures approaching each other quickly, particularly in the last few years of economic recession.

The following is a table of workers according to nationality in the above mentioned pro­ductive occupations.17

Year:
1971
1973
1975
1976
Total – Jewish workers in production occupations (‘000)
 392
 394
 365
 364
Total – Arab workers in production occupations (‘000)
 117
 135
 144
 159
% of Arab Workers in total number of workers
 23%
 25%
 28%
 30%

 

According to these figures the proportion of Jewish to Arab workers in productive occupations is approximately 5:2, i.e. Arabs constitute half the number of Jews and about 30 per cent of the overall number of Israeli workers in these occupations. This figure increases year by year but it is still low in relation to what may be expected in the near future, keeping in mind that the Arab population is particularly young (see Chapter 1). This trend has been on the increase over the past few years – whereas 90 per cent of new Arab manpower tends to work in productive occupations, i.e. industry and construction, all new Jewish manpower tends to work in the services, in administration, finance and office-work, apart from the change over from production to the services as a result of the recession, whose end is not in sight.

The above mentioned proportion, 5:2, coupled with the high concentration of Arab workers in specific occupations (as seen above), results in an absolute majority of Arabs in certain sectors. This can be more or less accurately measured for 1972, basing the figures on the census, on which we based the detailed occupation table shown above.

The following is a table of the salaried workers of each nationality in three occupations in which there was a large proportion of Arab workers in 1972. There is, as mentioned above, a growing tendency on the part of Arabs to concentrate in those occupations since 1973.

Salaried workers, broken down into nationalities and occupations (based on the population census)18
Jewish workers
Arab workers
Arab workers
Resident in Israel
Arab workers
Occupied Territories
Unskilled (industry & construction)
16,000
36,000
10,000
26,000
Builders, skilled construction workers
20,000
26,000
 6,200
20,000
Agricultural workers
32,500
24,000
5,500
18,500

 

Conclusions:

  1. Out of about 52,000 unskilled workers in industry and construction, only 16,000 are Jewish;
  2. Out of 46,000 skilled construction workers, less than half, i.e. 20,000 are Jewish.

This table is based on official data for 1972 and is of course the most reliable source for that year, being based on the census and not on statistical estimates.

As seen above, the number of Arab workers in industrial productive occupations has been in­creasing since 1972, therefore in 1978, their overall contribution, both proportionally and absolutely, is larger than their contribution in 1972 and 1976, as shown in the above tables.

Continue to… Chapter-3: Mobility

 

  1. H. Harari, opp. cit., p. 21
  2. The Uniform Job Classification, 1972
  3. Israel Statistical Annual, tables XII – 1
  4. Israel Statistical Annual, 1975-76-77, IX, XII – 1
  5. The Uniform Job Classification, 1972
  6. Yedi’ot Aharonot, 29.8.77
  7. Appendix 7, Statistical Quarterly, 1976, no. 7, p. 92. Also Appendix 8
  8. Statistical Quarterly – The Occupied Territories, vol. 7, No.2, 1977; also Israel Statistical Annual, table XXVII, 23; and Bergman, Economic Development In the Occupied Territories 1968-73, Bank of Israel Research Department, 1975
  9. Ministry of Labour, administered Areas unit. Report on activities, Aug. 1976; also Bergman, opp. cit.
  10. B.V. Arkadie, Benefits and Burdens, Carnegie Endowment, 1977
  11. Abstracts, Bank of Israel Report, 1976, p. 29
  12. Bergman, opp. cit.
  13. Yedi’ot Aharonot, 15.9.77
  14. Israeli Statistical Annual, 1975, p. 332
  15. J. Matras and D. Weentroub, Ethnic Differences in Intergenerational Mobility, Brookdale Institute, Jerusalem. Jan. 1977
  16. Baruch Nadel, “The Nadel Report”, Special Edition, Tel Aviv
  17. This table is derived from tables shown earlier and from “The Occupied Territories Quarterly” vol. VII, No.2, 1976 – Israeli Statistical Annual, table XXVII, 22, and Israeli Statistical Annual 1975, table XIV, 1
  18. Appendix 7, Israeli Statistical Annual, 1976, p. 92. also – Appendix 8.

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