NEW YORK (Dec. 8)
Many Jews throughout the United States are among the “large number of professionals” who are jobless, “many for the first time in their lives,” according to the president of the National Association of Jewish Vocational Services (NAJVS), which has monitored the economic and job situation in the United States for the past two years.
NAJVS president John Greenberg also reported “an ever-growing number of small businessmen facing bankruptcies” and “large numbers of young college graduates without any opportunity for employment,” as well as “a growing number of young high school and college students who are beginning to feel that it does not pay to complete their education and who are becoming increasingly discouraged and vocationally confused.”
Against the background of a steady improvement in the American economy, Greenberg said that the effects of unemployment, which he described as a “growing cancer,” included the danger of middle-class families breaking up.
He reported also findings by the NAJVS of single parent heads of households unable to earn “even a basic subsistence,” and that many of the jobless Jews are “finding it increasingly difficult or impossible to make mortgage payments or to pay rent.”
MIDDLE CLASS STABILITY IS ‘AT RISK’
In summary, he declared, “the economic and social stability of the middle class,” the category comprising most American Jewish families, reeling from the continuing blows of the recession and the impact of a shift of the American economy to a technologically-oriented base, is now clearly “at risk.”
Greenberg reported the NAJVS findings in testimony before a Congressional field hearing of the Public Assistance and Unemployment Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held in Atlanta during the 52nd General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations last month. The text of his testimony has now been released by the NAJVS office here.
Greenberg also told the Congressmen that the voluntary sector was contributing substantially toward solving the problems threatening the viability of the middle class but that the needs remained so great and so critical that it was beyond the resources of voluntary agencies to “achieve the sufficient” without “the full participation” of the federal government.
He reported that a recent national survey, completed by the NAJVS in cooperation with the CJF, disclosed that “well over 30,000 of this middle class group have registered for Jewish vocational services over the last 18 months,” a minimum increase of 16 percent of the total current caseloads of these agencies.”
MORE JEWS SEEKING HELP
Greenberg said the study supported NAJVS findings “that Jews, like other Americans, are showing up in great numbers at our agencies for service.” Specifically, he reported, the Jewish job agencies list “major increases in the 25-55 year age group, particularly the 45 and over segment, and in both college undergraduates and graduates.”
Greenberg reported that jobless persons “who had been making $20,000 to $45,000” annually “were now registering for service and looking for work for the first time in their lives, and many more female heads of households are applying for assistance.”
He declared that 60 percent of the 28 affiliated NAJVS agencies reported a decline of interest by young people concerning college-bound planning. Declaring that there was for him “a special irony” in that finding, he said he had been chairman of the Detroit Jewish Welfare Federation’s educational loan service since 1969, “a clearing-house for college students in need of financial assistance.”
Greenberg added that, despite the reported drop in interest in college attendance, the young Jews who do still want to go to college “are facing great difficulty.” He reported that the loan service, which provides scholarships to those who are indigent or otherwise unable to meet tuition and other college costs, has received “a tremendous increase in requests from middle income (or former middle income) families in the $20,000 to $40,000 (annual) income range.”
He said that, in that data, “is the tip of the iceberg — the emergence of the ‘new poor.’ Because of the great demand, we are new able to fund only 75 percent of the requests” to the loan service.
PROFOUND ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
Beyond these immediate concerns, threatening as they are, effective ways must be found to “confront what is by our reckoning the most profound economic challenge since the change from an agricultural to an industrial base” in the American economy, Greenberg said.
He warned that the “high tech” revolution, rather than holding out “a cure for economic and employment ills,” presents, on the contrary, new and difficult challenges,
Greenberg asserted that “most new jobs created during the 1980’s and 1990’s will not be in high technology nor will the new jobs in this field require a vast upgrading of skills. “He said that what was more likely would be “the insertion of equipment of a high tech nature” which will “reduce skill requirements,” meaning, he asserted, that “the middle range of the job spectrum will continue to shrink.”
He said that the voluntary sector, both in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, “are doing an absolutely outstanding job in addressing the critical human needs of this country.” He added that he could cite “numerous programs in the voluntary sector which have proven to be effective” programs, which have “literally turned unemployed and unskilled individuals into above-minimum wage taxpayers.”
THE NEED IS GREAT AND CRITICAL
But, Greenberg declared, “the need is so great and so critical, that while we in the voluntary sector are working to accomplish the necessary, we cannot ourselves achieve the sufficient. There are too many homeless and hungry, too many families in danger of falling apart, too many young people losing hope.”
He said the federal government must be a “vital member of the team working with us to do what we in the private sector, both corporate and not-for-profit, are best able and trained to do. “He urged” the full participation and leadership of government in the development of public policy which addresses the economic needs of the country and seeks particularly to deal with this growing cancer of unemployment as an essential element of the National Agenda.”