Cabinet Gets the Lowdown on Rapid Rise of Joblessness

As hundreds of jobless demonstrated Sunday outside the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israeli Cabinet heard alarming reports about the rapid rise of unemployment in Israel and the consequences it is already having for aliyah.

Menahem Porush, the deputy minister of labor and welfare, urged the government to take drastic measures immediately or face record unemployment of 250,000 next year.

Porush told the Cabinet that he has reports of children scavenging for food in garbage cans and children “chewing nylon sheets instead of food” in the development town of Netivot in southern Israel.

But by the end of a six-hour session devoted to the unemployment problem, the Cabinet had agreed to only one of several corrective measures proposed by the deputy minister — doubling the number of persons eligible for vocational retraining.

It will be raised from 60,000 to 120,000. But that is unlikely to have an impact, considering that only 40,000 trainees have taken advantage of the program to date.

Absorption Minister — Yitzhak Peretz said rising unemployment was responsible for the sharp drop in immigration, which fell from a high of 20,500 in June to the some 7,000 to 8,000 expected this month.

According to the latest figures, 145,000 Israelis are currently seeking work. The Labor and Welfare Ministry predicts 200,000 idle by the end of this year and 250,000 by the end of 1992.

Unemployment is now running at an annual rate of about 11 percent.

The paradox is that employment increased by 6 percent in the past year, attributable to incentives given the private sector. But the rise cannot keep pace with mass aliyah, which has swollen the number of immigrants unable to find work.

The Cabinet decided to continue the discussion at its next session.

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