August 12, 2010

Answering The Challenge of Employment in Israel

From Steve Schwager, CEO

If you have ever wondered about the impact that your dollars to JDC are having on global Jewry or life in Israel, look no farther than The Financial Times over the past few days. In the article entitled, “A not very secular shift” by Tobias Buck (excerpts below with permission from The FT) and a letter by me sharing JDC’s response, hundreds of thousands of high profile global leaders, from business to politics, were able to see our work—as the analysts of a critical problem and then, as the partner in bringing solutions to the table.

The article extensively cites Professor Dan Ben-David, Executive Director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel (an independent research institute that receives support from JDC). Dan shares and analyzes recent Taub findings on unemployment trends among Haredi men and Israeli Arab women, and their economic and political implications on the State of Israel.

As Isaac “Buji” Herzog, Israel’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services remarked at our May Board meeting, “The contribution of JDC to the resilience of the community in Israel—the resilience of the society in Israel in all of its ethnicity, multiculturalism, and mosaic-type structure—is enormous. It’s almost unimaginable… I’m saying this as one of your most serious partners who works with JDC, with Joint Israel, on a daily basis, and believes that you are an incredible partner and you exemplify what partnership is all about.”

As many of you know, JDC and the Government of Israel launched the TEVET initiative in 2005 to help break the cycle of poverty among population groups with high levels of chronic unemployment—Haredim, Israeli Arabs, immigrants, young adults, and individuals with disabilities. TEVET takes into account the cultural and other barriers that keep these citizens from finding and keeping jobs and develops programs to integrate them into Israel’s workforce in a way that is culturally sensitive.

I share with you my letter to the editor, which was published in The Financial Times, highlighting TEVET’s success in bolstering employment among Haredim and Israeli Arabs—meaningful economic boosts to them and to Israel as a whole.


Tobias Buck (“A not very secular shift”, Analysis, August 5) uncovers a challenge for the State of Israel that requires both grassroots and governmental efforts to ensure that the Haredi and Israeli-Arab populations can become viably employable.

To that end, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the State of Israel are already working together on 60 employment programmes, more than 15 of which have been strategically tailored to put the Haredi and Israeli-Arab populations to work.

In the last five years, we’ve placed more than 5,000 Haredi men and several thousand Israeli-Arab women into Israel’s workforce. Such jobs include positions in Israel’s high-technology industry as computer programmers, as well as jobs as bus drivers, photographers, cashiers and hairdressers.

And while the problem presented in your analysis seems staggering, our efforts to employ these groups – as well as the other 800,000 chronically unemployed adults in Israel – are producing encouraging results.

Steven Schwager, Chief Executive, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), New York, NY, US

I also share with you excerpts from the original Financial Times article.

…[An increasingly vocal group of economists and policymakers] point out that Israel is facing a dramatic demographic shift that will have a deep impact on its ability to sustain economic growth and keep public finances in balance, weakening its ability to deal with security threats in the region.

The problem, in short, is that the two fastest growing groups – the Haredim and Israel’s Arab minority – are also the poorest, least productive and least educated. Both include a disproportionately large number who do not work and depend on welfare. The problem is particularly acute among ultra-orthodox men, 65 per cent of whom do not participate in the labour force, and Israeli-Palestinian women, 76 per cent of whom are outside the workforce.

…The Arab minority already accounts for 21 per cent of the population, with Haredim estimated to make up 8-10 per cent. Yet their combined share is certain to rise dramatically. Analysts say the best way of illustrating their demographic potential is to look at education. According to a recent study by the Jerusalem-based Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, almost one in two elementary pupils is being taught in an Israeli-Arab or ultra-orthodox school. Prof Dan Ben-David, director of the Taub Center, argues that simply extrapolating this trend into the future is fraught with problems but yields remarkable results nonetheless. The Taub Center report finds: “If the changes of the past decade continue, then in 2040 the share of ultra-orthodox and Israeli-Arab pupils will be 78 per cent of all pupils in Israel’s primary schools.”

…Policymakers have only recently started grappling with the question of how to integrate the Haredim and the Israeli-Palestinians into the workforce. Mr Braverman’s ministry, for example, vowed this year to invest Shk800m ($213m, €161m, £134m) in projects designed to boost employment and education among the Arab population.

…Analysts agree that the shifting demographics require a bold policy response, and most argue that change is needed sooner rather than later. As Prof Ben-David says: “There is a point of no return, and when we cross it we will not be able to change things democratically – and maybe not at all.”

Irv and I hope that JDC’s research and programmatic response, highlighted in this media coverage, reaffirm that your support helps create solutions to systemic issues in Israel and to challenges facing Jewish communities worldwide.

To learn more about TEVET, please visit the JDC website.

No comments: