Serious Housing Shortage Expected in Israel Because of Building Lag

Israel will face a serious housing shortage during the second half of this year, according to a report issued by the Finance Ministry earlier this month.

The report found that the emergency immigrant housing program adopted by the Israeli government last August has fallen behind schedule.

It also found that the massive wave of Soviet immigrants that arrived in Israel over the last year has pushed up the number of jobless.

The housing and employment situations are expected to worsen as an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Soviet immigrants arrive here this year.

By comparison, a total of 199,751 immigrants arrived here last year.

Anticipating a larger flood of immigrants in 1991, the government launched a crash housing program last August. It set a target of 45,000 housing starts for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

By the end of December, however, preliminary planning was completed for only 25,000 of these units. Land for only 12,900 of these units had been allocated by the end of December.

The government’s program included plans for 49,500 temporary housing units for 1990 and 1991, to provide shelter until regular housing is built. By the end of December, only 680 mobile homes and 110 prefabricated ones had been set up.

Only 10,000 orders for temporary housing had been placed by this time, about 60 percent of them abroad.

JOBLESS RATE RISING

To meet demand for increased construction of permanent units this year, another 50,000 workers are needed. On Jan. 13, the Cabinet approved a proposal by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon to bring in 3,000 foreign construction workers experienced in rapid building techniques.

The use of foreign workers comes at a time when the unemployment rate in Israel is around 10 percent and rising, mainly because of the influx of new immigrants.

In November, 109,900 persons came to the state employment service in search of work, while in December the number rose to 112,000. And those levels are about 20 percent higher than the rate of a year ago.

The increase in the number of job-seekers reflects the fact that the tens of thousands of Soviet immigrants who came during the first few months of last year have now finished their Hebrew studies and have entered the labor force.

The Finance Ministry report found that along with an increase in job seekers, there also was a significant increase in requests from employers for workers — but not enough to keep pace with the rapid expansion of the labor force.

About 55 percent of the Soviet immigrants are expected to join the labor force after their first year in the country, and the number will eventually rise to 60 percent.

The report projected that about 180,000 new jobs will be created during 1991 and 1992. About 100,000 veteran Israelis are expected to enter the labor market during this time, along with about 200,000 immigrants. According to these projections, there will be a shortage of about 100,000 jobs in two years’ time, unless the economy grows at a much faster rate.

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