Self-employed in Israel are in a struggle for survival - expert

Adv. Roee Cohen speaks for 600,000 self-employed business owners struggling since the end of the pandemic.

MARKET DATA at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
MARKET DATA at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Adv. Roee Cohen, president of the Association of Self-Employed and Business Organizations in Israel, said at the Jerusalem Post Group’s Leaders’ Summit on Monday that since the end of the coronavirus crisis, the self-employed in Israel have been in a daily struggle for survival.

Cohen participated in an economic panel, at the summit that took place at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Conference Center, entitled “Why don’t we talk about the self-employed in the election campaign.”

During the discussion, Cohen discussed the crisis in the economy and the difference between the center and the rest of the country.

Economic crisis and difference between the center and rest of the country

“What you see in Tel Aviv is not what you see in the periphery,” he said. “Not all of Israel is the state of Tel Aviv. We must remember that 70,000 businesses closed after the coronavirus crisis. What is happening now is a daily struggle for survival among businesses that suffered a severe blow in industries such as clothing, tourism, restaurants and others. The big bang is still on the way. In the meantime, we’re just trying to survive.”

VARIOUS ISRAELI banknotes are displayed for an illustrative photo. The economy is well on its way to the pre-pandemic standards of budgetary discipline. (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)VARIOUS ISRAELI banknotes are displayed for an illustrative photo. The economy is well on its way to the pre-pandemic standards of budgetary discipline. (credit: NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

Cohen discussed the election promises of outgoing government ministers: “I heard them speak about the justice system or transportation, but in the end, we have to talk about life itself. Tens of thousands of businesses must deal with property taxes that are 10 or 15 times higher than property taxes paid by the public, for no reason. These are the things that the ‘government of change’ should have dealt with first. Instead, we found ourselves last on the list of priorities after the coronavirus crisis ended.”

"We must remember that 70,000 businesses closed after the coronavirus crisis. What is happening now is a daily struggle for survival among businesses that suffered a severe blow in industries such as clothing, tourism, restaurants and others."

Adv. Roee Cohen, president of the Association of Self-Employed and Business Organizations in Israel

He presented a survey prepared for the association, which shows that two-thirds of the self-employed and business owners in Israel fear for their businesses because of occurrences beyond their control, such as a pandemic or war.

Another worrying statistic from the survey shows that 64% of them do not believe that the next government will assist them.

“There is a severe crisis of trust between the self-employed and their representatives in the Knesset,” Cohen pointed out. “It cannot be that in Israel, the self-employed will fear for their livelihood because of things that are not under their control. This does not exist with salaried workers.

“It is an indictment of the Israeli government that did not bother to arrange a safety net,” he said. “We don’t want the state to interfere with business owners conducting business. The feeling is that we are second-class citizens of the country who have obligations without rights.”

Also participating in the panel was Yossi Alkobi, president of the Crafts and Industry Association, who maintained that 90,000 businesses would not have closed had the state provided a true safety net during the coronavirus period. 

“There are 623,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Israel which employ two million workers and produce 54 percent of the national product,” said Alkobi. “Those businesses get up in the morning ready for work, in order to provide food for the children and a livelihood for the workers. Those same businesses, which fill the country’s tax coffers, are not considered.

“[The pandemic] showed us that the economies of countries were sustained by a healthy and robust small and medium-sized industry,” said Alkobi, who asserted that small companies in Israel were abandoned during the pandemic. “We did not receive grants. The big businesses got the most grants because they had all the right people.”

Cohen said that the Israel Federation of Small Business Organizations is launching a campaign calling on the candidates for prime minister – current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz – to commit that the guidelines of the government to be formed will include an entire section for the self-employed and business owners.

“It cannot be that 600,000 self-employed people have become the most vulnerable in the State of Israel,” he said. “The politicians need to understand that we will continue to demand these things even after the elections, and if they are looking for something that will determine the majority bloc in the elections, this is what will motivate people to go out and vote.”

Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.