New Olim Looking for Jobs Find Unemployment Crisis in Process

An unemployment crisis appears to be in the making for newly arrived immigrants, the vast majority of them from the Soviet Union and many highly educated.

About 14,000 recent arrivals are registered with the Employment Service but have had no job offers so far, according to David Mena, the service’s director general.

He predicted the unemployment rate among immigrants will soar at the end of the year, when many of them complete their Hebrew studies and enter the job market.

“Employment is more important than housing,” Mena told a news conference here Tuesday, echoing a dire warning recently given by Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i.

Moda’i was overruled when a Cabinet majority voted in favor of Housing Minister Ariel Sharon’s program to import prefabricated houses and mobile homes, though it gave Sharon nowhere near the funds he demanded for the purpose.

Mena agreed with Moda’i that “without creating new job opportunities, we will be facing serious problems.”

Even without large-scale immigration, the country is in an employment slump. The number of jobless reached 165,000 this month, more than 10 percent of the work force– a record high.

Only half of the 85,000 immigrants who arrived in Israel last year found jobs, Mena said, even though the newcomers were not selective and have been willing to accept almost any work offered them.

Mena cited cases of doctors who work as nurses and engineers who take jobs as electricians. “But I don’t know if they will be willing to take those jobs a year from now,” he said.

A disproportionate number of immigrants are highly educated. Mena said 85 percent of the immigrants are professionals and a third are university graduates. According to economists, their collective education represents a $2 billion investment.

The Employment Service said that about 25,000 engineers, 7,000 physicians and 3,000 scientists will immigrate to Israel in the next 18 months. Among the scientists will be at least 180 of world renown, according to the prediction.

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