Times reporter Catherine Philp makes wild claim on Ethiopian Israeli unemployment

timesOn July 29th we fisked a storyin The Times (of London), by Catherine Philp about the Israeli company SodaStream which casually suggested unequal pay between Jews and Palestinians at their factory in Mishor Adumim.

In addition to the categorical denials regarding such a disparity by the company CEO and an Arab Israeli plant manager (per interviews I conducted at their corporate offices), Philp failed to inform readers that the name of the Palestinian employee she interviewed for the story was in fact a pseudonym. (This prompted a clarification from the paper after our report.)

More recently, in an Aug. 31 Times story, Israel slams door on Ethiopian Jews after final airlift (behind pay wall), Philp made this curious claim about unemployment rates for Israelis of Ethiopian descent.   

Assimilation into Israeli society, however, has proved hugely difficult. Many of the original Beta Israel migrants were astonished to discover that their supposed Hebrew brethren were white, not black, and they were unprepared for the discrimination they met.

As rural Africans, many Ethiopians have been ill-equipped to enter the job market. Unemployment among them runs at more than 60 per cent.

Philp provided no source to support such an extraordinarily high unemployment rate, and upon searching for evidence it appears to be completely without merit.

Unemployment rates for Ethiopian Israelis:

Whilst the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics doesn’t report jobless rates according to specific communities, we can deduce a reasonable estimate by noting that the current rate in the country is 7.2 percent, while a major group advocating for Ethiopian Jews claims that joblessness for their community is double the national rate. This claim, placing the rate of Ethiopian unemployment at around 14 or 15 percent, has been cited in other media reports as well.

Employment rates for Ethiopian Israelis:

The following graph (part of a 2012 report by the independent research arm of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Government of Israel) demonstrates that “gaps in employment rates between Ethiopian-Israelis and the general Jewish population have narrowed dramatically”, and clearly don’t support Philp’s claim:


Unemployment rate for Ethiopian Israelis who immigrated to Israel since 2002:

The only number we were able to find which was even within 20 percentage points of Philp’s claim was a 2012 Times of Israel story by Aaron Kalman which cites a report by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption claiming that 41 percent of Ethiopian Israelis who immigrated to the country since 2002 were out of work.  (The first major wave of Ethiopian immigration to Israel began in 1984)

Philp’s claim?

Even if the current Ethiopian unemployment rate is in fact higher than double the national average, the graph cited above demonstrates that the percentage of Ethiopian Israelis not working for whatever reason (which is of course a different statistic than the unemployment rate) in 1999 was 60 percent – indicating that, since 1999, the unemployment rate was never at 60 percent.

So, whilst, in fairness, there is ample evidence of economic disparities between Ethiopian Israelis and other Jewish populations, based both on unemployment rates (those not employed but who are looking for work) and employment rates (the percentage of the entire population which is working), the figure Philp cites is impossible to support.

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