Youth and Hi-tech in Israel.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday presented a plan to the cabinet to make it easier for highly skilled foreigners and their spouses to come to Israel to work.
“The demand is enormous and the supply of workers is small,” he said. “We are interested in assisting the absorption of a limited number of expert workers, who could help in the interim. In order to ease the absorption of workers with unique know-how, today, the cabinet will make it possible for their spouses to stay in Israel and work here legally.”
Silicon Valley benefited from such arrangements, the prime minister said.
Israel has struggled with a shortage of engineers in recent years. Schools have not produced enough skilled workers, educated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It can no longer rely on the wave of expertise that came with the migration of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s.
Immigration laws that make it difficult for non-Jews to move to Israel have made it tough to attract foreign talent to fill the void.
The new rules could ease that burden, providing avenues for experts who are content to come to Israel for a few years with their families and work before heading home.
Netanyahu framed the move as a temporary measure, one that would carry Israel through until it succeeded in getting more of its own population up to snuff.
“We have turned to populations that have not been involved in hi-tech until now, such as the ultra-Orthodox and – of course – our Arab citizens.
We are also trying various means to train our young people, including in mathematics, computer and science studies – this will take time,” he said.
Israel’s Arabs and ultra-Orthodox have, for various reasons, lower educational achievements and labor force participation rates than non-haredi Jews.
The government has also made efforts to encourage more women to study STEM subjects and enter the hi-tech field.
Salaries increases in the hi-tech industry have outpaced those in the broader economy, as companies have competed for skilled workers who are in low supply.