The work and family lives of women in Israel

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In the third Episode of Series 2 of our podcast looking at research emerging from the Equal Lives project, we talk to Zafer Büyükkeçeci from Humboldt University in Berlin and Professor Vered Kraus from the University of Haifa about their research, Work and family life courses among Jewish and Israeli-Palestinian Women in Israel. They use newly-available linked Census and administrative data to look at who leads a more advantaged or disadvantaged work-family life. They discuss how they created the life course groups, what they found and the implications of the research. 



The work and family lives of women in Israel

In the third Episode of Series 2 of our podcast looking at research emerging from the Equal Lives project, we talk to Zafer Büyükkeçeci from Humboldt University in Berlin and Professor Vered Kraus from the University of Haifa about their research, Work and family life courses among Jewish and Israeli-Palestinian Women in Israel. They use newly-available linked Census and administrative data to look at who leads a more advantaged or disadvantaged work-family life. They discuss how they created the life course groups, what they found and the implications of the research.

Christine Garrington  0:00 

Welcome to DIAL, a podcast where we tune into evidence on inequality over the lifecourse. In this series we discuss emerging findings from some of the projects in our programme. Our guests today are Zafer Büyükkeçeci and Vered Kraus who as part of the Equal Lives project have been looking at the lives of Jewish and Palestinian women in Israel, to see whose life courses are characterised by advantage and disadvantage. I started by asking Vered why they decided to investigate the lives of women in Israel.

Vered Kraus 0:30  

Israel is composed of a very rich ethnic society. On the one hand, it has the majority of Jews who compose 80% of the population, and the other part, the Israeli Palestinians. Israeli Palestinians are divided again into three major religion groups. The majority of them are Muslim, then we have Christian. Then we have Druids. Druids are a sect, it is a religion that was part of the Muslim religion but depart from them. The Jews also are composed of two ethnic groups, the more advanced one are the Western Jews, and the less advanced one are the Eastern Jews. Jewish woman labour force participation in Israel is one of the highest in the Western world. At the same time, their fertility is also one of the highest. There is 3.2 children per woman, 80% of any woman, participate in the labour force. The third reason is the fact that the Israeli Palestinian are the most disadvantaged and discriminated group in Israel. They have the lowest income, low education and reside in segregated areas and they have a separate educational system. The Palestinian women since are discriminated and have low education, about a third of them are participating in the labour force when their birth rate, on average, is lower than the Jewish. In general, Israel is a very traditional society, we have different sex but also it is family oriented in traditional society, and studying Muslims in Israel can serve as a benchmark for more extensive study on Muslims in neighbouring countries.

Christine Garrington  2:38  

A really sort of complex political, social, economic and religious backdrop to this work so Zafer what did you want to look at more specifically? And why?

Zafer Büyükkeçeci 2:49  

This is the first study that follow women from various ethnic origins and we follow them from early childhood to late 30s and examine their combined family formations such as marriage childbearing, education, especially into the labour force, and economic returns of participation in the labour force. So, so far, there were lots of studies numerous studies conducted in Israel, studying these events, separately like examine income, family formation influences, employment patterns, or how employment is related to childbearing. But these studies, they focus on single events, and it’s not clear how different family and work events typically combine over the life course in which order and timing they occur. And ethnic religious groups differ in terms of the combination of these work and family events over the life course. So, our interests, must identify the typical work and family life courses in Israel and relate these profiles by ethnic religious groups. So to sum up, we examine work and family trajectories among Israeli women. As a whole, by considering single family formation and claimants educational attainment events in the context of others from early childhood to late 30s.

Christine Garrington  4:25  

So Vered Zafer talks there about following women over the life course. I’m interested to know where you got your information from and and why it’s such a good source for looking at these particular questions around who gets to live a more advantaged or disadvantaged work and family life in the setting that we’ve talked about?

Vered Kraus  4:44

Israel has every 10 years, they have censuses, every 10/11 years so we have 61, 73, 83, 95 and 2008 was the last census, done by the Central Bureau of Statistics. And one day they’re going to interview everybody who lives in Israel in that day, and then they take they take a sample of 20%, of the total population. And ask more detailed questions, so our data is based on that 1995 census 20% of the population for whom we then combined administrative register data from the Education Bureau, from the tax authority, from the Interior Affairs Bureau. All those information was combined to the census data, where have information for each individual who is in the census 20%. We have the total of the information of birthplace of resident, marital status, when the child was born, we have a yearly income. We have labour status, we focused on a sample of women born in 1979 and 81, and follow them until 2018 They really take a very secure approach at who can handle the data and where.

Christine Garrington  6:39  

Zafer then talk us through what you did with this, this, you know, fantastic data source. And obviously working with it as Vered says in a very secure and careful way.

Zafer Büyükkeçeci  6:50  

So we use this information and employee cycles and cluster analysis and these allow us to identify typical work family life courses of women in Israel. This enables us to document the timing, duration, and order of women’s experiences across multiple work and family life. So we know all these states, and with these techniques we groups most similar life courses in Israel. There were five different typical working family combinations. And after identifying these five working family combinations, we estimate, sorting, to these life courses differ by ethnicity. The five work family life courses were late feminine formation, its private sector employment – these women were more likely to marry later in comparison to other women and work in private sector. The second group was family oriented with public sector employment. These women compared to the former group married earlier had more children and mostly worked in public sector. The third group was early family formation with moderate labour force attachment. These women formed family a lot more earlier in comparison to the former two groups. And the moderately involved in economic reform group were similar but they even had lower labour force attachment, they formed family, very early and were not involved, regularly in the labour force, and there was another group, characters, characterised by singlehood and they had very unstable life trajectories they went out into to the labour force, and these are the five groups that we identified in our analysis.

Christine Garrington  8:52  

Yes, we’ll talk about that, rather surprising group a little later on in the episode. So Zafer tell us now then about something about out of those groups who was living a more advantaged life and who was leading the war disadvantaged life? Were you able to pinpoint that?

Zafer Büyükkeçeci  9:08 

As we call advantage like late family formation with private sector employment group, they had the highest income and more stable employment patterns and the majority of Jewish women from all six ethnic groups are sorted into these clusters which combine later family formation which work in the paid market in the private sector. Whereas Israeli Palestinian women were very unlikely to sort into these profiles. And this exists for all Israeli Palestinians including Christian women, they all had significantly lower likelihood to sort into this advantaged group. So that was a big gap between the Israeli Palestinian and Jewish women, in sorting to the different profiles but this was among different ethnic groups so we also distinguish between the Jewish ethnic groups, but there were no systematic differences in sorting into these groups. On the other hand Muslims were over represented in the as we call disadvantaged groups, which were characterised by early family formation and moderate labour force attachment. So, sorting into moderate or lower labour force attachment groups was more likely for the Muslim groups. Whereas, it was the difference was less when we compare Christian Palestinians with the Jewish groups.

Christine Garrington  10:44  

Right, and Vered you dug a bit deeper actually to see to what degree the women’s family background and the, the opportunities they had where they lived could explain all of this, what did you find there?

Vered Kraus  10:56

We incorporated family background which mainly was wealth, education, fathers and mother, education. And we assign the socio-economic standing of place of residence of those interviewees. When we look at the group, which is early family formation and moderate labour force participation or low level participation. We found that it’s composed mainly of Israeli Palestinians, but the effect of Israeli Palestinians goes down when we incorporated those background characteristics. On the other hand, we found that when we look on the advanced profile. And we saw that most of the Israeli Palestinians are hardly entering those zones, eh profiles. When we incorporated the background characteristics, we see that it was only minor reduction in the effect. Which means that the Israeli Palestinian, even when we control for background characteristics they are really excluded from those more advantaged profiles.

Christine Garrington  12:22  

Right, yeah, that was quite a clear finding wasn’t it and Zafer we’ve alluded, a little bit to this sort of surprising group that emerged from your research but I want you just to tell us a bit more about them.

Zafer Büyükkeçeci  12:35

This group, as we labelled them was the single with unstable work trajectories. So they were especially noteworthy because these life courses combined singlehood with factors that often predict high work orientation, such as these individuals have higher education levels and they were expected to be enrolled in high earning jobs and get this unexpected work family life course. It would be missed in correlational analyses that focus on single outcomes such as employment, level of income, and possibly this group shows a new urban life course that is rising among younger cohorts and less common in older cohorts of Israel. So the characteristics of this group, namely singlehood detachment from the labour market. And this is similar to the emerging trends in other advanced economies,

Christine Garrington  13:34  

So there’s something there about the about the millennials isn’t there I think?

Vered Kraus  13:37  

When we look at the income level of this goal, we found that it’s a very high income, many of them live in Tel Aviv, in Tel Aviv area, which has lots of economic opportunity, and I can speculate maybe that many of them work like in non-standard employment, so you can work in high tech, and you can well partly for years or something like that, then you are discharged or you will go to another job. So and then you go to another job. And in the meantime when you work you can earn a lot of money. So my speculations that part of this group is composed of those new millennium, or however we call it group, which we never saw that exists.

Zafer Büyükkeçeci  14:31

Yeah what we found was you’re more likely to sort into this group if your parents had higher educational attainment and if your place of childhood had higher levels of socioeconomic characteristics.

Christine Garrington  14:47

So finally, then I want to ask really what what do we take away from this research? What do we learn that’s new? And what’s important? And what can be done with that sort of information?

Zafer Büyükkeçeci  14:31

We see that systematic differences in work and family life courses among different religious groups exist in Israel. And also, we show that a new group mainly characterised by singlehood till later is emerging in Israel. And lastly, we see that a advantageous differences in access to life courses are changed by background characteristics but this mainly exists at the bottom -such opportunities, parental background characteristics, they don’t really change the religious differences in access to specific life courses at the top.

Christine Garrington  15:43  

Work and family life courses among Jewish and Israeli-Palestinaian Women in Isralie is research by Zafer Büyükkeçeci, Anette Fasang, Vered Kraus, Asaf Levanon and Evgeny Saburov and is published as a DIAL working paper. You can find out more about the NORFACE funded DIAL projects at Thanks for listening to this episode of our podcast, which is presented and produced by me Chris Garrington and edited by Elina Kilpi-Jakonen.