Gov’t Immigration Policy Aggravates Labor Dearth in Growth of Holy Land

M. Novomeysky, managing director of Palestine Potash, Ltd., the company working the Dead Sea minerals concession, recently published an article in the Palestine Post, warning the Palestine government against precipitating an economic crisis by its over-cautious immigration policy.

“At the end of last year,” writes Mr. Novomeysky, “the country had apparently just sufficient labor to cover its requirements. There was no large surplus available for increased demand. By the second half of January, 1933, the situation had changed and skilled and even semi-skilled labor could be found only with difficulty. By the end of August, the position had become still worse, and in the report to the board of directors of Palestine Potash, Ltd., it was stated that one of the reasons for delay in fulfilling the approved extension program was the scarcity of labor in Palestine.

“At the end of September the situation was critical. Some of the workmen who had been employed for over three years began to leave, and about a quarter of them had left by the end of October, attracted by the considerably higher wages offered in the towns. There was actually a competitive race for labor between the various industrial enterprises, a rare event in present-day world economic conditions. These men appear to have filled freshly created economic positions, following on the rapid development of the country.

“Non-Jews have to be employed at the Dead Sea works because of the scarcity, and there was one group, consisting of a German, a Hungarian, a Dane and two Arabs, all non-Jews, which did some of the machine work.

“An undertaking like the Palestine Potash Works is faced with the alternative of either raising wages by at least 5 percent over last year’s rates, or suspending parts of the work for the present.”

The writer stresses the need of a labor reserve, arguing that it is the only solution for the present unhealthy labor situation in the country. “The various industrial and other undertakings established in Palestine with no little difficulty,” he says, “must look with anxiety towards the future, if the existing unsatisfactory conditions of shortage of labor are to be left as they are.

“The question of extension of existing undertakings, already decided upon, must be revised in the light of the newly-created conditions,” he says. “The establishment of new undertakings must be postponed until the authorities have realized the dangerous scarcity of labor and have changed their present policy.

“Many of the new immigrants now arriving in Palestine, particularly from Germany, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia and the United States, are of the industrial type. Many of them want to transfer actual plants to Palestine. They have experience and capital, but the absence of labor is the obstacle that undoubtedly retards the natural development of the country.”

Mr. Novomeysky believes that a population of over 50,000 working men and women in the Jewish community could stand a labor reserve of a few thousand.

“There is no ather government in the world that would artificially retard a country’s development for fear of a possible setback later on,” Mr. Novomeysky insists. “Every country, before the general world condition set in, had its ups and downs—years of prosperity and years of depression, and while possible changes must be anticipated, it cannot be a reason for putting the brakes on a country’s growth. Such a method of arresting development in order to prevent a possible crisis, may lead to precisely opposite results—to precipitate the very crisis which it was meant to avoid.”

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