Israel’s start-up nation status must be fought for - comptroller

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman leads an international report on transforming the global workforce.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englmann attends a press conference to announce the opening of an investigationn into Israel's Mount Meron disaster, at the State Comptroller offices in Jerusalem, May 3, 2021.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englmann attends a press conference to announce the opening of an investigationn into Israel's Mount Meron disaster, at the State Comptroller offices in Jerusalem, May 3, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on Sunday issued a report saying that despite Israel’s current edge in hi-tech, it has its work cut out for it for succeeding in the transforming global workforce of the future.

He also warned that 45% of Israeli jobs relating to physical labor are already endangered by changes in automation, markets and globalization.

Englman co-authored the report with other comptrollers of EUROSAI, a global network of countries’ ombudsmen, in his capacity as the organization’s first vice president.

“Extensive and rapid changes occur in the labor market around the world, resulting in new combinations between technologies from different fields – physical, biological and digital,” said the report.

The report stated, “The scope of these changes, as well as the speed of their occurrence emphasize the need to adapt the skills provided to students by the education system – the future workers – as well as the skills of current workers, to those changes.”

TODAY NEARLY 40% of Israeli start-ups are consumer-facing and more than 20% of Israel’s unicorns are B2C companies. In the photograph: Hi-tech development centTODAY NEARLY 40% of Israeli start-ups are consumer-facing and more than 20% of Israel’s unicorns are B2C companies. In the photograph: Hi-tec (credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)TODAY NEARLY 40% of Israeli start-ups are consumer-facing and more than 20% of Israel’s unicorns are B2C companies. In the photograph: Hi-tech development centTODAY NEARLY 40% of Israeli start-ups are consumer-facing and more than 20% of Israel’s unicorns are B2C companies. In the photograph: Hi-tec (credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)

Besides Englman, the report involved the National Audit Office of Bulgaria, European Court of Auditors-ECA, National Audit Office of Finland, The Court of Audit of Italy, State Audit Office of the Republic of North Macedonia, and the Board of Audit and Inspection of the Republic of Korea (from ASOSAI).

“While working on the parallel audit, the world faced major challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, which significantly affected the labor market,” noted the report.

Further, “The employment crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 emphasizes the importance of investing in human capital, in the unemployed, and in future workers (today’s children and youth), in order to increase their employment capabilities in a constantly changing reality and to reinforce the hi-tech sector.”

The report added, “This is especially true for low-skilled and economically disadvantaged population-groups.”

Paradoxically, “Studies show that activities which can be replaced by mechanization (e.g. by machines, computers, robots or artificial intelligence – AI) are expected to decline in number.”

But this does not mean that the workforce will remain the same.

Rather, “There will be an increase in activities demanding the use of technology and activities which rely on distinctly human qualities (such as creativity and social competences). Thus, certain professions may disappear completely and new ones will be created.

Overall, 15% of the global work force’s jobs are defined as in significant danger of being eliminated by the changing workforce, and 54% are defined as in mild danger or including a need for significant retraining.

Generally, the report suggests, “governments everywhere... prepare for further transformations, throughout the various systems that are affected: public employment services; education systems; vocational and educational trainings; adult education programs; other public employment measures; higher education systems; and public service management.

“This report aspires to contribute to raising awareness to the challenges and opportunities of Workforce 2030, in the national governments of the participating [Supreme Audit Institutions] SAIs, as well as in other countries,” said the report.

According to the report, “By cooperating, we strengthen society, uphold common values, develop our cultural identities and share knowledge. Cooperation is therefore the only reasonable option for governments and, at the same time, for the Supreme Audit Institutions, if they wish to play a major part still in the future.”

More specifically, for Israel to continue to be the Start-Up Nation, “The relevant government entities (CHE, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, Israel Innovation Authority, Ministry of Defense) should undertake to remove the barriers hindering this objective: address the existing shortage of skilled personnel in the hi-tech industry and ensure a long-term solution for suitable personnel; a special and crucial emphasis must be placed on involving the Ministry of Education fully in this task.”

Further, the report encourages “integrating populations that are at present only narrowly represented in the [hi-tech] industry, and practically excluded from it – first and foremost, women, but also the Arab and Jewish ultra-Orthodox populations.”

A further challenge that the report raised was, “addressing the shortage of academic staff and reducing the dropout rate of university students from hi-tech subjects – this is essential in guaranteeing the next hi-tech generation.”

Remarking that the Education Ministry officially initiated a reform program five years to address some of the workforce changing trends, and needs to prepare the next generation for a different skill set, the report criticized the ministry for doing little in practice with the reform.

Englman said the ministry was doing little oversight and not investing in learning about how the reform was progressing.

In addition, the report said around half of ministry officials involved in the issue did not think that the reform had made a significant impact to date.

All of this is brought out by Israeli students’ scores coming in below the OECD average.

In order to prepare students to succeed, besides general knowledge and values, “the education system should also teach the skills students will need as adults in their social, personal, and professional lives in the 21st century.”

“This is further reinforced by the fact that education systems around the world are working to implement such skills,” noted the report.

Englman criticized “deficiencies in both the planning and the policy, as well as in the operational implementation of the skills in the curricula. Deficiencies were also found in assessment and measurement methods, and in the level of pedagogical flexibility given to schools.”

In addition, the report said, “While environmental audits have been leading the way for cooperative audits for the past few years, the challenges of the changing labor market are often just as global and of mutual concern, as governments everywhere are searching for ways to adapt and prepare.”

The report sets goals for achieving various benchmarks through 2023.