Most Israelis agree on the need to improve employment rates in the haredi and Arab sectors, but according to a new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, a third sector is being undervalued by the economy: senior citizens.

About 30 percent of Israeli senior citizens who are not working are able to work, and their net total employment would be worth at least NIS 6.4 billion in income, the study found.

The study, “Senior Citizens: A Great Unexploited Reservoir of Human Resources” took into account existing polls, which show that 70% of Israel’s 700,000-plus seniors want to work. It added other factors, including the health of the seniors, labor differentials for men and women and unemployment rates. It concluded that while 80,500 seniors are currently employed, another 219,800 – or approximately 30% – are employable.

The figure of NIS 6.4 billion was reached by using the minimum wage to calculate a conservative estimate of the value of the senior citizens’ potential work.

“Certainly, even under different circumstances not all of these seniors would seek or find work, but keeping them out of the labor force is clearly a great economic loss to Israel and a personal loss for each of them,” said Zev Golan, co-author of the study.

Seniors made up 4.8% of the Israeli population in 1955, but will reach 13-14% by the years 2025-30, according to JIMS. Twelve percent of the 65+ population is currently employed, but 71% of men and 63.1% of the women aged 60-64 are in the labor force.

“The agenda in Israel is focused on raising the employment rate in the haredi and Arab sector,” said Keren Harel-Harari, the study’s other author. “Senior citizens are ignored, though many of them want to work and many of them were working until they were forced or encouraged not to.”

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