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Employment Exchange

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Employment exchanges are offices where workers seeking employment and employers requiring workers may fill their respective needs. They are, in other words, a market place for labor, intended to replace the unguided individual search for work or for employees. But where such employment exchanges are run as competitive business enterprises their true social function is likely to be subordinated to that of profit making for the owner of the exchange. Therefore, the organization of employment bureaus as a gratuitous social service under public control is now part of the industrial policy of almost all civilized countries.


The task of finding suitable jobs for the masses of Jewish immigrants in the United States, or “industrial placement,” has naturally been one of the main functions of organizations and social agencies engaged in adjusting the poor Jewish newcomers from Europe to the American scene. The Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society is an example of such an agency. With the stoppage of the immigration, in 1924, this branch of Jewish social service was considerably attenuated.

Also youth service organizations, such as Y. M. and Y. W. H. A., orphan asylums, Jewish boards of guardians, and Jewish community centers have always regarded placement work as one of their foremost objectives. Of course, orthodox Jewish people have been served, so far securing jobs is concerned, by the Jewish Sabbath Alliance of America. Again, Jewish Social Service Associations (for family relief) have as a rule given attention to employment problems of their clients.

During the depression the pressing need for employment as a means of relieving distress and as a method of preserving the morale of the unemployed made it necessary for certain social-philanthropic agencies, not having the purpose of job-finding, to deviate from the policies followed in times of more abundant employment and to engage in general employment service.

The difficulty of securing jobs has been, however, so discouraging as to necessitate the curtailment or suspension of placement service on the part of some social-work agencies. On the other hand, the same factors had the opposite effect of re-establishing some placement services which had been discontinued after the cessation of Jewish mass immigration.


At the present time, in New York City, there are many Jewish organizations directly or indirectly concerned with the general problem of Jewish employment; both local and national agencies, such as agencies concerned with the placement of young men and women, with the problem of anti-Jewish discrimination, with social, economic and personality handicaps, Sabbath observers, immigrants, German refugees; agencies dealing with research and vocational guidance and with attempts to combat the Fascist threat against the social and economic status of Jews.

Now, all these groups and organizations operate without coordination, each strives to attain its ### specialized and narrow ends. No wonder, then, that the outsider gets the impression of a great deal of confusion and duplication.


The effects of the disunity in the work of the eight employment agencies, for instance, which are supported by the Federation for the support of Jewish Philanthropies were brought into sharp relief in a comprehensive survey made a year or so ago by Irvin Rosen, an outstanding worker in the field of Jewish employment service. He found that the various offices were competing against each other for desirable jobs and desirable applicants.

Moreover, a tense rivalry existed among the agencies to reach preeminence qualitatively —a waste of effort more often than not at the expense of real achievement.

Still worse, the professional standards of work in the employment offices survey were low, due to inadequate personnel, the absence of vocational guidance and counselling, absence of necessary trade information and of proper social-economic research.


The fact that various employment agencies were departments of Jewish community centers, social work agencies, etc., proved a twofold drawback.

In the first place, it imposed a specialized experience on the agency; in a word, it narrowed the field of placement. Secondly, employers had a way, as was disclosed by Mr. Rosen’s study, of associating the employment agency with the purpose of this or that philanthropic institution, such as family welfare society, orphan asylum, etc. Thus, it was possible to come into contact with the employers only on a “humanitarian” basis and not at all on a business basis.

It has been further found by the investigator that no account was taken of the changing vocational needs of applicants or of the changing labor market; the agencies being content to function on preestablished lines despite meagre success.


In other words, placement workers, in whose hands the destinies of tens of thousands of Jewish young men repose, have failed to take account of crucial economic and social changes—a circumstance which renders their social work almost entirely futile.

Frequently new employment placement projects are started without taking into account the work of the existing agencies. In this way an already bad situation is aggravated, the number of competitors is multiplied and greater and greater duplication and overlapping of agencies is provoked.

Fortunately, a few months ago, a step toward centralization or merger of Jewish placement, vocational guidance and occupational research agencies was taken by the Federation for the support of Jewish philanthropic activities in New York City, and a plan for a centrally administered employment bureau has been approved by a number of organizations for immediate realization.

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