The survey was held among 1,000 Arab business owners, who employ at least one hired worker and were asked, "Do you believe Arab businesses in Israel are discriminated against?"
The responses point to a growing feeling of discrimination in the Arab sector, with most respondents saying they are not receiving business opportunities in general and governmental bids in particular, and being rejected as chief contactors and taken as subcontractors instead.
The employers were also asked to rate the depth of discrimination they felt. The responses reveal a drop from 2011 in the number of respondents who felt they were being largely and very much discriminated against, yet the number is still high – 53.8% compared to 57.4%.
In addition, in mixed communities the number of Arab employers complaining of discrimination is significantly lower than the number of employers whose businesses are located in Arab communities (46% compared to 55.3%).
Benny Pepperman, head of the Research and Economic Department at the Economy Ministry, explained that the survey was conducted ahead of the launch of a new index, which would examine the depth of the feeling of discrimination among employers in the Arab sector on a quarterly basis, and would be conducted in cooperation with the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister's Office.
"The increase in the number of Arab employers who believe they are being discriminated against may stem from an expansion of the discourse on equal opportunities, injustice and discrimination since the start of the social protest," said Pepperman.
Aiman Saif, director of the Economic Development Authority in the Minority Sector, noted that "on the one hand, the figures strengthen the claim that the Arab business sector is not receiving an equal opportunity, both in the private sector and in the governmental sector, as can be seen in the small number of Arab businesses applying for governmental bids.
"On the other hand, the figures point to an improvement, and so continuing the governmental activity in terms of economic development in the coming years will lead to an improvement of the situation and increase integration."
'Arab workers screened in advance'
Discrimination is not only felt in the business sector. A survey conducted recently by the Research and Economic Department revealed that 21.2% of employees belonging to the Arab sector feel they are being treated unequally at work just because they are Arabs.
Linda Hagag, who manages the Tigbur manpower agency in the Arab city of Tayibe, says employers are setting obstacles for Arab workers, including some who are breaking the law by refusing to hire women with a head cover.
"Even when a worker goes through all recruitment stages, employers eventually tell them that they were found 'unsuitable' or use some other wording," she adds. "I argue that it's because they belong to the (Arab) sector."
Another noteworthy obstacle, she says, is the absence of convenient public transportation to get to work. Other obstacles, on the part of the candidates, include lack of knowledge of Hebrew, which is required in the labor market, or lack of work experience, especially among women in the sector.
As a result, she says, Arab workers see themselves as less valuable. "The workers themselves think they are worth less, especially the educated ones," she notes. "People with a bachelor's and master's degree look for physical manual work because they think there is no point wasting their time in long recruitment processes and not being hired in the end because they belong to the sector."
Hajaj adds that although an improvement can be felt in recent years in the integration of minorities in the labor market, it is limited. "Despite the progress, I still see racism or prejudice by some employers towards minorities, which negatively affect their integration in the labor market," she says.
"There are high-paid senior positions with good conditions, but workers from the sector are screened in advance. For example, there are women lawyers who work as secretaries because they have failed to integrate into companies in senior roles."