Jews of Israel - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Israel's economy in the past was influenced heavily by the centralized and socialist tendencies of the Labor governments that ruled the country between 1948 and 1977. Between 1977 and 1992, Likud-led governments favored privatization of enterprises and limitations on the large public sector. Labor was returned to power in 1992.

Industrial Arts. The importance of Israel's industrial sector has continued to grow (proportional to agricultural production), and by the early 1980s industrial exports accounted for close to two-thirds of total exports. Tourism remains a major source of employment and foreign exchange.

Trade. Israel's merchant marine (numbering about 100 ships) is vital both to its economy and, given hostile relations with surrounding Arab countries, its sense of security. Israel's small size, lack of natural resources (particularly petroleum and water), and heavy commitments to defense expenditures have constituted obstacles to sustaining economic growth, and the country has become increasingly dependent on foreign inflows of capital, especially foreign aid from the United States.

Division of Labor. About 40 percent of the Jewish civilian labor force is female. The other great division of labor is between Jews and Arabs, with the latter concentrated in construction and agriculture. Occupational differences are also evident between Jews of Afro-Asian origins ("Orientals") and those of Euro-American descent (called "Ashkenazim"): about 65 percent of all Ashkenazim are concentrated in white-collar professions, whereas about 55 percent of Oriental Jews are concentrated in blue-collar occupations.

Land Tenure. Most of the land in Israel is owned by the state or state-sponsored institutions and is conceived as held "in trust" on behalf of the entire Jewish people.

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