Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Women's Education and the Labor Force

Caroline Kahlenberg

A recently publicized Science and Technology Ministry study revealed that in almost half of Israel's universities, women made up only 20% of the faculty. While this severe under-representation of women is not new, it occurs today even at a time when women in Israel are more highly educated on average than men. The gap between women's educational achievements and their situation in the university labor market invites us to explore the relationship between gender, education, and the workforce more broadly. 

Over the past decades, women in Israel have been acquiring higher education at an increasing rate. In 1969-1970, women made up 46.9% of all first-degree students at institutions of higher education, reaching 54.1% in 1989-90 and 56.6% in 2012-13. In 1980 only 32% of Israel's doctoral students were women, but by 2012-13 this figure rose to 52.1%. 

Yet despite the steep increase in women's education, the situation in the labor market still contains major gaps. As the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute's 2014 Gender Index shows, contrary to popular opinion, women's educational achievements do not alone necessarily translate into better pay, job positions, or status in the labor market. In 2012, the average monthly (gross) salary in Israel for men (NIS 11,400) was 50% higher than the average for women (NIS 7,600). While part of this can be attributed to the fact that women work fewer hours than men, the gap also exists in hourly pay: In 2012, the average hourly wage in Israel for men (55 NIS) was 17% higher than it was for women (47 NIS). 

Jerusalem's labor force contains a slightly different story. Because of the special status of its workforce (with especially low participation of Jewish men and Arab women), the gender gap in workforce characteristics is not as stark. In 2012, the average hourly wage for men in Jerusalem (47 NIS) was comparable to that for women (46 NIS), and the gap between men and women's monthly salary was only 25% (as compared to 46% in Tel Aviv, and 61% in Haifa). 

If we look at a different aspect of Jerusalem's labor market—at overall labor force participation among the entire 24-54 year-old population, rather than at characteristics within the workforce—we can see a major gap between Jerusalem men's and women's participation according to educational attainment. As the graph displays, even when comparing men and women who have completed the same level of education, labor force participation rates are consistently higher among men. However, as women's educational attainment increases, so does their participation in the labor force, which narrows the gap between men and women's participation. Out of those who last attended primary and intermediate school, only 10% of women and 81% of men participate in the labor force. Among those with secondary school education, 43% of women and 89% of men participate in the workforce. Meanwhile, 71% of women and 91% of men with post-secondary school education, and 80% of women and 90% of men who last attended academic institutions, participate in the labor force.