The Israeli civilian labor force were 2.435 million, or 54 percent of the 4.487 million population aged 15 years and over, in 2000. In Israel the rate of participation in the labor force is low compared to other developed economies. Women's rate of participation in the civilian labor force was 48.2 percent in 2000, as opposed to 60.8 percent for men. In 2 segments of the Israeli society, among Arab Israelis and ultra-orthodox Jews, the rate of participation in the labor force is rather low, especially for women. About 11.5 percent of the labor force in the business sector are foreign workers, of which 46 percent are Palestinians, and the rest are from other countries. Except for the Dead Sea minerals, Israel has almost no natural resources, making human capital the country's catalyst for economic growth and competitiveness. In 1999, about 13 percent of those employed were academic professionals, and 14.6 percent were professionals and technicians. In 1999 about 15 percent of the civilian labor force had 16 years of schooling or more, compared to 1 percent in 1979, indicating a sharp rise in qualified Israeli professionals.
The General Federation of Labor in Israel, usually known as the Histadrut, is the largest voluntary organization in Israel and an important economic body. It is open to all workers, including the self-employed, members of co-operatives and of the liberal professions, as well as housewives, students, pensioners , and the unemployed. The reach of the Histadrut extends to approximately 85 percent of all workers. Dues are between 3.6 and 5.8 percent of wages and cover all its trade union, health insurance, and social service activities. The federation engages in 4 main fields of activity: trade union organization, social services, educational and cultural activities, and economic development.
Israel's labor standards are in line with international regulations and norms. There is a minimum monthly wage, and employees are entitled to social benefits under the comprehensive national insurance, Bituah Le'umi. There is also a state-provided health-care system in place, the so called Kupat Holim. Every male conscript has to serve up to 30 days of army reserve duty every year; employers continue paying their employees' salaries during this time. Israel has a minimum wage law, which is 47.5 percent of the average wage. Sometimes questionable is the enforcement of labor standards with regard to foreign workers, mainly from Eastern Europe and South Asia, as well as Palestinian workers employed in Israel.