Ben-Eliezer plans central employment authority

An alternative is needed for "Wisconsin plan" terminated by Knesset; Available jobs up 33 percent.

By SHARON WROBEL
May 5, 2010 08:59
3 minute read.
INDUSTRY, TRADE and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-El

Ben Eliezer at Afula employment center. (photo credit: Yoram Cohen)

 
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Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer wants the government to establish a nationwide employment authority now that the welfare-to-work program known as the Wisconsin plan has been terminated.

“The developments over the past year have taught us that we need to establish a strong employment authority that will formulate long-term policies on a national level and deal with weak groups in the population who are not participating in the labor market, as well as [address the problem of] vast salary inequalities,” Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday while visiting the Afula Employment Center. “There are no miracle solutions. We need to learn from past mistakes and how we can improve.”

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A national employment authority would centralize all employment bodies including the Employment Service, law enforcement and day-care centers, he said. The ministry will appoint a deputy director-general within the next few weeks to supervise the establishment of the employment authority, he added.

One of the main supporters of the Wisconsin plan, Ben-Eliezer is expected to hold a first meeting on Sunday to discuss an alternative plan for the replacement of the welfare-to-work program, which was not extended by the Knesset last week.

Meanwhile, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry research and economics department on Tuesday published a report showing that in the first quarter of this year the number of available jobs increased by 33 percent, and the employment balance (new hiring minus layoffs) improved from the previous quarter.

The figures for the demand for workers point to continued growth in the number of available positions, from a daily average of 42,600 in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 56,500 in the first quarter of 2010, the ministry said. The number of available jobs in the business sector in the first quarter of 2010 rose by 67% compared with the same quarter last year.

“This is the third quarter in a row during which we are seeing an improvement in the number of available positions, in the employment balance and in expectations,” Benny Pfefferman, the ministry’s head of research and economics, said in the report. “We believe there is a change in the labor market that is expected to continue in the coming quarters. Despite the positive signs in the majority of employment figures, the level of available jobs is still significantly lower than the level of demand in the years 2006 to 2008.”

An analysis of the data from the survey of employers in the business sector in the first quarter of 2010 indicated a sharp rise in the employment balance, which was positive, at 51,000 positions, compared with a positive balance of 37,300 in the fourth quarter of last year and a negative balance of 45,300 in the same quarter last year.



Pfefferman said the figures provide further support for expectations of a continued decline in the unemployment rate reported by the most recent data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The latest unemployment figures showed that in February, the unemployment rate remained steady at a preliminary 7.3% of the civilian labor force, the same as in the previous month, after gradually declining since last May, when unemployment reached a high of 7.9%.

Last month, the Bank of Israel revised its forecasts for the economy and the labor market. This year, the economy is set to expand 3.7% faster than the earlier estimate of 3.5%, and the average unemployment rate is expected to drop to 7% from the previous forecast of 7.1%.

The change resulted partly from the relatively sharp decline in unemployment in the last quarter of 2009, the central bank said.

Next year, gross domestic product is expected to increase 4%, and the rate of unemployment to fall to 6.7%.

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