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For many decades immigrant women were virtually invisible in the sociological literature (e.g., Morokvasic 1984; Pedraza 1991; Simon 1992). In recent years, however, more and more researchers have begun studying the economic participation of immigrant women. The growing literature on the topic has focused on economic activity of immigrant women in societies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Latin America, and Western Europe (Boyd 1984; Evans 1984; Gabaccia 1992; Phizacklea 1983; Stier 1991; Stier and Tienda 1992; Sullivan 1984). These studies have arrived at three conclusions: First, immigrant women are characterized by higher rates of labor force participation than other women (Boyd 1984; Castles and Kosack 1973; Pedraza 1991; Phizacklea 1983; Simon 1992; Tyree and Donato 1986). Second, economically active immigrant women face greater hardships in the labor market when compared with immigrant men (Basavarajappa and Verma 1990; Boyd 1984; Evans 1984; Phizacklea 1983; Sullivan 1984). Third, socioeconomic disadvantages of immigrant women are likely to differ by country of origin (Boyd 1984; Phizacklea 1983; Sullivan 1984).
In the present article we intend to contribute to the comparative literature on gender-linked socioeconomic inequality by examining the impact that gender exerts on two aspects of labor market activity among recent immigrants to Israel: (1) rate of labor force participation and (2) the size of the occupational cost associated with transition from country of origin to country of destination. The research will provide estimates of "costs" in terms of employment and occupational status that recent immigrants (men and women) experience shortly after arrival to the new country(1) and will examine whether such costs differ by ethnic origin. In so doing, we will be in a position to contribute not only to the study of Israeli society but also to the comparative literature on gender inequality in general and the interlinked effects of gender, ethnicity, and immigration in particular.
The literature on international migration contends that immigrants often experience considerable hardships when entering the labor market of a new country. The hardships can be observed on two dimensions: ability to join the economically active labor force and ability to find suitable and rewarding jobs (Raijman and Semyonov 1995). The hardships are, to a great extent, a result of restricted access to information, limited knowledge of the labor market, and inadequate or inappropriate human capital resources (such as language proficiency and cultural orientation). Consequently, new arrivals often accept jobs of lower status and lower prestige than those they held in the country of origin. Therefore, immigrants are likely to suffer some occupational cost as a result of migration. The cost is likely to be substantial on arrival and to decline with tenure in the new country (Borjas 1982, 1983; Chiswick 1978, 1982; Portes and Rumbaut 1990; Raijman and Semyonov 1995; Semyonov forthcoming).
However, the size of the occupational cost is expected to differ across gender lines. Immigrant women are likely to experience greater hardships in comparison with immigrant men (e.g., Boyd 1984; Phizacklea 1983; Sullivan 1984). In this regard, Sullivan (1984), for example, found that immigrant women of Hispanic origin did not fare well (in the United States) when compared with Hispanic immigrant men. The Hispanic women were less successful in converting their human resources (i.e., education) into occupational prestige. Boyd (1984) demonstrated that employers in Canada preferred immigrant men over immigrant women, especially for high-status and rewarding jobs. Kats (1982) found that Russian female immigrants (who arrived in Israel during the sixties) suffered a double disadvantage (being both female and immigrant) when competing for jobs requiring high levels of educational requirements.
The "double disadvantage" thesis was articulated most succinctly by Boyd:
sex adds another dimension to the stratification of immigrants within the
workplace and within the larger society. In addition to the status of being
a migrant, immigrant women experience additional difficulties in the labor
force as women ... Overall, the position of immigrant women in the labor
force can be understood as reflecting the combined impact of sex and
birthplace or the "double negative" effect. (1984, 1092-3)
The disadvantages immigrant women face in the labor market, when compared with men, can result from several factors; the foremost is the limited employment opportunities available to women (Pedraza 1991; Phizacklea 1983; Sullivan 1984). A large body of sociological research has repeatedly demonstrated that because of occupational sex segregation, women are concentrated in a small number of occupational categories--mostly semiprofessional, clerical, and service-related jobs (e.g., Cohen, Bechar, and Raijman 1987; England 1981; Reskin 1993; Reskin and Roos 1990). This is a problem faced by all women regardless of origin, race, or ethnicity (England and McCreary 1987; Farley and Allen 1987; Lieberson and Waters 1990; Semyonov and Lerenthal 1991). However, the problem is especially severe for immigrant women who not only compete in a tight labor market but also compete for occupations (i.e., clerks, teachers) in which language skills and formal credentials are a prerequisite.
In addition, it is possible that constraints associated with commitment to traditional family roles and responsibilities are especially pronounced among immigrant women. Lack of social networks to support the daily care of children in the new society may restrict the labor force supply of immigrant women during the first years after their arrival (Evans 1984). Thus, recent immigrant women may face greater hardships than men when trying to join the economically active labor force.
Previous research on the status of immigrant women in the labor market has also revealed considerable ethnic variations in the disadvantages faced in the host society. For example, immigrant women from North American and Western European origin arriving in Australia and Canada were more successful than their counterparts from Third World countries at converting their resources into occupational prestige (Boyd 1984; Evans 1984). Indeed, there is a significant interaction between gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic attainment whether in Europe (Phizacklea 1983), the United States (Xu and Leffler 1992), Canada (Boyd 1984), Australia (Evans 1984), or Israel (Semyonov and Lerenthal 1991).
Following the logic embodied in the literature on the status of immigrants in general, and immigrant women in particular, we entertain the following three hypotheses regarding the impact of gender on employment opportunities among recent immigrants to Israel: (1) Women are not as successful as men in rejoining the economically active labor force; (2) immigrant women, in comparison with men, are likely to experience a greater loss of occupational status in the transition from one labor market to another; and (3) immigrant women arriving from less developed countries are likely to face greater disadvantages in the labor market than their counterparts from highly industrialized societies.
IMMIGRANTS IN ISRAEL
Israel is inhabited by Jews who immigrated from most countries of the globe.(2) Some immigrants arrived from highly industrialized countries like the United States, Canada, England, or Germany, while others came from less developed countries like Ethiopia, Yemen, Iran, and Iraq. The Jewish immigrants came to Israel in a sequence of waves. The first wave arrived at the turn of the 20th century mainly from Eastern European countries. Most immigrants from Asian and North African countries arrived in the second wave, shortly after statehood (1948). Immigration during the last three decades was less systematic. It was characterized by immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, and Iran as well as immigrants from North and South America.(3) The analysis that follows focuses on gender/ethnic inequality among those who immigrated to Israel between 1979 and 1983 (hereafter called "recent immigrants").
During the 1979-83 period, immigration to Israel was not extensive (a total of only 10 1,000 immigrants). The overwhelming majority (almost 60 percent) arrived from Eastern European countries, predominantly from the Soviet Union. Because of its relatively "normal size," this immigration flow did not create unusual pressure in the Israeli labor market. The labor force …