Friday, March 04, 2005

 

State of the Israeli economy

In three words? Not so good. Ruth Sinai has two articles in Ha'aretz: the first is about the unemployment rate. Although the government has made a big deal (or as big a deal as you can make) of unemployment declining from 10.9 percent to 10.4 percent last year, the annual report of the Commitment to Peace and Social Justice (of course, who can trust a group with a name like that, right?) indicates that the true rate of unemployment and underemployment in Israel is at about 18.1 percent of the labor force. This figure reflects approximately 2 percent of workers who have despaired of finding work and almost 6 percent of workers who are underemployed, working fewer hours than they would like. Furthermore:
Of the 70,000 new jobs created last year, the report said, about 60,000 are part-time jobs paying low wages. The report also noted that the number of long-term unemployed has risen sharply by 53 percent since 2002.
The second article reflects similarly dismal economic news from Israel, specifically looking at communities considered "unemployment hot spots." And get this: now some of these are even (gasp) Jewish communities!
Overall, unemployment in Israel fell from 10.9 percent to 10 percent last year [see directly above]. Yet the number of "unemployment hot spots" keeps growing. In January, there were 71, more than a third of all the towns that appear in the Employment Service's monthly statistics. Sixteen months earlier, in September 2003, there were only 39. Moreover, there were 13 Jewish towns on January's list, compared to only six in September 2003....

Until 2003, the "unemployment hot spots" rarely included Jewish towns. In 2003, Jewish towns began appearing on the list, but only in the Negev. Last year, they were joined by Jewish towns in the north.
The article focuses on Or Akiva, one of these communities. This is the Likud economic program. This is the budget that Labor and Yahad and the Arab parties will vote for if they think that it's worth more to give Sharon a vote of confidence to press forward with Gaza disengagement. They will be voting for money for compensating settlers (as Gideon Levy has written, compensate them for what?), for building the wall through the West Bank, for building up settlements around Jerusalem, for increasing funding to small religious parties (as payoff for supporting, or less actively opposing, withdrawal of settlers from Gaza). Meanwhile:
At the same time, the state's investment in helping the long-term unemployed find jobs has dropped dramatically. Since 2003, for instance, many fewer job-seekers are being referred to state-funded professional training courses....

...And while there is a shortage of skilled metalworkers in the area, the new, more restrictive, rules instituted by the government in 2003 mean that most of the unemployed are not eligible to attend a training course that would give them the necessary skills.

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