Employment agencies, workers brace for layoffs

Closing of Mishmar came just over two weeks after Amdocs Ltd., a leading billing and customer-service software provider, cut back 200 employees.

unemployment generic 88 (photo credit: )
unemployment generic 88
(photo credit: )
In a small office suite on the third floor of a building in downtown Jerusalem on Thursday, workers spoke of the financial crisis with an sense of impending doom. "We're worried," said one employee who asked to remain unnamed. "Now that people are losing their jobs, the crisis is truly beginning, and I think that things are about to become difficult for a lot of people." It was the day after Mishmar, a cleaning, maintenance and security-services company, fired 800 workers and announced that it was closing down. Noting that clients owed his firm more than NIS 1 million, Mishmar CEO Yossi Liav said there was little choice left but to close, as banks would not extend his credit. Employment agencies across the country say they are readying for an upswing in requests for work, as the financial crisis brings its first large-scale lay-offs to the country, and workers in a number of fields, including hi-tech, are getting very nervous. The closing of Mishmar came just over two weeks after Amdocs Ltd., a leading billing and customer-service software provider, cut back 200 employees as part of end-of-year efficiency measures, closing its Jerusalem office entirely. An employee at Dena Care, an employment agency that specializes in caregivers for the elderly, said that during unstable financial times, there's often an increase in housewives and young mothers coming in for work. "Their husbands have been let go, or they just need to supplement the family income," she said. "So they come here and try to find work. "They are suited for it, it's not work that a construction worker could do. But in better times, these are not women that would traditionally be going out to work. "It hasn't happened yet," she continued. "But I believe it will, it wouldn't surprise me." At the Tel Aviv branch of Shoham, a general placement agency, a manager, Orit, said she was aware of the recent rash of layoffs, but had yet to see an increase in jobseekers. "I'm not feeling the crisis yet," she said. "But I'm certainly worried about it. I know the higher tiers are feeling it - hi-tech, engineering, but it hasn't really trickled down yet." Another indicator is seen in agencies that deal with foreign workers - mostly for nursing and caregiver positions. Employees there said that they've seen a decline in the number of people inquiring about workers, and those that call are settling for the less-expensive, less-skilled employees. "People used to call and ask for the best live-in nurse for their elderly mother or father," said Molly, who works at the Ne'eman Employment Agency. "Now they're calling and asking for the least-skilled workers, that charge the smallest amounts. And that's if they're calling at all." Foreign workers' agencies are particularly up against the wall, as a two-month government hold on foreign workers entering the country will go into effect in January, bringing their agencies to a near-standstill. "There used to be 600 [foreign worker] agencies, and its dropped to 180 in the last two years," said Avishag, who works at a Jerusalem agency for foreign workers. "Once this break goes into effect, I'm not sure how the rest are going to survive. "Things are going to get hard here," she said. "For everyone."