Daily Israel Report

Israel to Fight Unemployment by Reducing Foreign Labor

The National Employment Service reported Thursday that the number of foreign workers in Israel matches the number of Israelis who are unemployed.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 2/15/2007, 8:32 PM

Israel’s National Employment Service reported Thursday that the number of foreign workers in Israel matches the number of Israelis who are unemployed.

The Employment Service director, Esther Dominissini, told the Knesset committee examining the issue that there are 200,000 Israelis registered as unemployed who are able to replace the 85,000 foreign workers legally working in Israel.

Dominissini told the MKs that many of the unemployed Israelis are already trained to work in the fields currently occupied by the foreign workers. She suggested, however, that the government budget money toward programs that would train Israelis to work specifically in the fields to be vacated by the foreign workers. Dominissini said that the continued employment of foreign workers “not only deepens unemployment, but delays the industrialization of the construction industry and the mechanization in agriculture, increases stipends paid to the unemployed, harms the Israeli worker's ability to negotiate his salary and encourages an environment of corruption.”

The committee on foreign workers was established following a government decision to steadily reduce the number of foreign workers from the construction and industrial sectors by the year 2010. There are currently 15,000 such workers, mostly Romanian and Thai, employed in those sectors. The number of workers authorized in the elderly-care and agriculture fields will also be reduced.

The early founders of the state put much significance in the concept of avoda ivrit, Jewish labor. They saw the Jewish people’s return to all sectors of society, including construction and agriculture, as a value in and of itself. Today, avoda ivrit construction and agriculture (aside from the Jewish contractors and farm-owners) is rare outside of hilltop communities in Judea and Samaria.

The government’s decision is being implemented on a test-basis in Eilat, where hotels will not be allowed to employ foreign workers after the end of this month.