(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The wave of layoffs is having a disproportionate negative impact on English-speaking immigrants. But it is also leading to a dramatic increase in freelancers and boosting demand for multilingual sales and call center staff.
"Of course, the global economic crisis accompanied by the wave of layoffs is having a big impact on local English speakers, since a high proportion are employed in the hi-tech sector, which is continuing to lay off staff every day," Nat Gordon, director of Marksman International Personnel Ltd., a recruitment agency specializing in English-speaking staff, told The Jerusalem Post. "Amid the global economic crisis, a lot of technology and software projects from abroad have been frozen, and, as a result, local companies have been cutting English-speaking software programmers and hardware writers."
Technology companies throughout the world have been streamlining operations in recent months by firing workers, in particular in the hi-tech sector, as projects and orders diminish.
In a third round of layoffs in less than a year, Comverse Technology is poised to fire 400 to 500 employees over the next few months. SAP Israel is to lay off 20 people, Nortel Israel is putting 45 employees out of work as part of restructuring efforts and 10 percent of Cisco Systems Israel's staff is being fired.
Gordon said the problem got worse in December when companies prepared their annual budget, started to sack in-house human-resources staff and declared a hiring freeze for 2009.
"What we are also seeing is that companies are trying to cut budget costs by sacking the most expensive staff and replacing them by cheaper staff," he said.
According to Ron Machol, director of Business Development at Israemploy, an English job-listings Web site for veteran and new immigrants, the number of available jobs has decreased by 15% to 20% in recent months, while the number of job seekers is going up.
"This situation is causing salaries to go down," he told the Post. "The recruitment process is taking much longer, as companies are looking for a perfect match, or instead are taking freelancers."
Avicam Gitlin, director of JobShuk.com, which connects English-speaking freelancers in Israel with the world, said the number of freelancers seeking work and the number of global companies looking for project-based freelancers such as Web design or programming has gone up dramatically in recent months.
"Up until three months ago we recorded two new freelance profiles a day, while now we register up to 10 a day," he told the Post/i>. "Most of our profiles are freelancers in technology-related areas.
"As companies are looking for ways to cut costs, we are also seeing an increase in the demand for outsourcing projects to Israel, which means that businesses don't have to hire or pay social benefits."
Gitlin, who is also vice president of business development at Sales Force Israel, a call center outsourcing specialist that employs native English speakers, said demand for outsourcing projects has been on the rise in recent months.
"Since September, we have seen a big increase in call center projects for companies in the US and Europe," he said. "While elsewhere people are being laid off, we are now hiring more than before."
Gitlin said the Jerusalem-based call center employs 150 to 200 people, adding, "Last month we hired 20 people, and we are looking to hire another 10 people."
Companies were on a budget due to the economic crisis, and payment has decreased 10% to 15%, he said.
"The increase in the demand for outsourcing at a time of an economic crisis is putting native English speakers in a better position to find work over, for example, locals being laid off from factories," Gitlin said. "English speakers willing to work in call centers will be able to weather the storm and get through this crisis."
Gordon said despite the recent wave of layoffs, local hi-tech companies still needed people to sell their products abroad.
"On the positive side, hi-tech companies are looking for English-speaking sales people, in particular for telemarketing and telesales," he said. "Another area of demand by global Israeli corporations is for English-speaking bookkeepers and debt collectors."
Gordon said marketing executives or technical programmers, who were making NIS 12,000 to NIS 20,000 a month before they were laid off, are not yet pursuing sales jobs with a salary of NIS 5,000 to NIS 7,000 plus commission.
"Instead, they are getting unemployment benefits for 70% of their previous salary, for a period of three months," he said.