The percentage of employed Israelis working part-time jobs despite their desire to work full-time rose from 2.4 percent to 3.6% over the past decade - more than three times the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average - the Bank of Israel said Tuesday. "The sharp rise in the number of those employed part-time against their will reflects the difficulty of the Israeli labor market to create full-time positions for workers in general and for weaker population groups in particular in the past few years, in the context of the recession of 2000-2002 and the cuts to [welfare] allowances begun in 2002," the central bank said in the preliminary release of the labor-market chapter of its 2005 annual report. "This condition is of a parallel character to unemployment, in that it results from a shortage in demand for workers to satisfy supply," the Bank of Israel said, noting that rises in the numbers of frustrated part-time workers and of unemployed workers are closely related. Israel Institute for Economic Social Research chairman Roby Nathanson said another factor was likely the influence of private labor contractors that find people low-quality temporary jobs, as well as that of informal temporary employment in construction, agriculture and services. The proportion of part-time jobs in the Israeli labor market has remained stable at about 15%, which the central bank said was comparable to the OECD average of 14.2. "In light of this it may be concluded that there is no basis to the claim of an unequivocal rise in the number of part-time positions," the central bank said, adding that the changes observed are within the limits of acceptable variation. Some 75% of those working in part-time positions, despite full-time aspirations, stay in part-time positions for more than 12-18 months, against 65% of part-time workers in general, the central bank noted. Since 2002 the labor market has added 209,000 jobs, bringing the number of employed to 2.5 million, or 91% of the labor force. The central bank rejected the claim that the growth in jobs results from a problematic increase in part-time positions boosted by forcing individuals into the labor market through reduced welfare allowances or lopsided economic growth. "This approach to part-time positions is different from the approach in developed countries. There, part-time positions are considered to be a vital element in the labor market's flexibility, opening employment opportunities to groups that are unable or unwilling to work full-time, such as women, students and the elderly," the central bank commented. The central bank cited a 2003 summit of OECD labor ministers, which stressed the importance of job-market flexibility and the creation of part-time jobs as tools to integrate additional population groups into the work force. Separately, the Employment Service said employer demand for workers grew 18.2% to 21,085 positions to be filled in February, against 17,845 one year earlier. The number was nonetheless down 4.6% from the previous month. Demand for skilled workers accounted for 11,220 of the employer requests, against 9,865 requests for unskilled workers.