By SHARON WROBEL
The government will allocate NIS 45 million to reduce unemployment in the periphery and create 1,300 jobs, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Thursday.
"We are using all the tools at our disposal to reduce unemployment and encourage the hiring of unemployed workers at the country's strong factories," he said. "The program is tailored to create jobs [and] bring unemployed workers back into the labor force."
The program focuses on struggling regions, especially the periphery, and encourages the hiring of segments of the population with low participation in the labor market, such as haredim and minorities.
The government will subsidize up to 20 percent of the monthly wage of a newly hired worker for up to 30 months in approved factories and businesses. The average monthly government subsidy per new worker is expected to be NIS 1,300.
Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Director-General Sharon Kedmi said similar programs have succeeded in creating 8,000 jobs in recent years, at an investment of NIS 600m.
Last June, the ministry's Investment Center allocated NIS 78m. to create 1,700 jobs in the periphery, including for haredim and minority groups. It allocated NIS 25m. to support the hiring of 495 haredi workers from Elad and Modi'in Illit and NIS 13m. for 380 workers in Acre, Katzrin and Beit She'an.
In August, Ben-Eliezer unveiled plans to integrate 135,000 people into the workforce by removing obstacles that inhibit the entry of haredim, Arab women and the handicapped.
On Thursday, Ben-Eliezer visited the Lights to Employment center in Nazareth, ahead of the government's decision on whether to expand the controversial "Welfare to Work" program to other parts of the country, scheduled for the end of the month.
Lights to Employment was approved in July 2007 as a replacement for the Wisconsin Plan. It has since undergone a number of modifications as a pilot program in Jerusalem, Ashkelon-Sderot, Nazareth and Hadera-Wadi Ara run by four multinational companies.
In 2004, the Knesset approved the original Wisconsin Plan (Mehalev), to allow people receiving National Insurance Institute payments to work.
Ben-Eliezer said the program could bring the unemployment rate down by 1%, which is more than any other available program.
"The expansion of the program across the country will remove 30,000 people from the unemployment rolls," he said.
If approved, Lights to Employment centers will be opened in Haifa, Tiberias, Kiryat Yam, Safed, Afula, Beit She'an, Karmiel, Acre, Nahariya and Sakhnin.
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