The Presidium of Israeli Business Organizations, together with leaders from the academic and health sectors, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to partially reopen the economy after the Passover holiday or face the "high likelihood of economic collapse."In a letter published in financial daily newspapers, over 100 signatories praised the welcome impact of government measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, but warned that the same policies could "present us with the greatest economic crisis in the state's history - a crisis that will stop Israel's global momentum for many years." Signatories to the letter, which was also addressed to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman, included Manufacturers Association president Ron Tomer, Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn and Israel Farmer's Federation secretary-general Avshalom Vilan.Hadassah Medical Center director-general Ze'ev Rotstein, Israel Export Institute chairman Adiv Baruch and the chief executives of food giants Osem, Strauss and Tnuva were also among the signatories.Immediately after the Passover holiday, the employers recommended, businesses should be permitted to restore on-site workforce to at least 50% of all employees. Subsequently, workforce restrictions should be gradually lifted in tandem with the slowdown in infections, while ensuring continued adherence to hygiene and protective equipment guidelines.In addition, the signatories said, coronavirus testing must be significantly expanded to some 20,000 to 30,000 daily tests. All at-risk individuals or citizens with symptoms should be tested, they added."The current figures, showing a significant slowdown in the morbidity rate, permit a gradual reduction of harm caused to the economy. The rate at which cases are doubling themselves has decreased from every three days to every 14 days, and it continues to decline," the letter continued."We are convinced that adopting the above strategy will ensure the stability and rapid recovery of the Israeli economy, while avoiding economic disaster and providing both economic and professional security for citizens. The continuation of existing policies will result in the high likelihood of economic collapse and weeping for generations."According to a forecast published by the Bank of Israel's research department last week, gross domestic product is project to contract by 5.3% this year, but grow by 8.7% in 2021. Researchers said that inflation is expected to be -0.8% in 2020, but increase by 0.9% in 2021.
Data published by the Israeli Employment Service on Monday showed that over 96,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits since the start of April, bringing total unemployment to nearly 1,085,500 or 26.1% of the workforce.
Notably, the share of new applicants during April that have been made redundant stands at 11.3%, and a further 80.6% are employees placed on unpaid leave. During the latter half of March, redundancies stood at approximately 5% and unpaid leave at 90%.
"As it looks this evening, we are expecting to see a continuing rise in the number of redundances in the coming weeks - both due to the end of the large wave of employees placed on unpaid leave, but also because a proportion of applicants initially classified as on unpaid leave may have now became redundant," said Employment Service director-general Rami Garor.
"After the [Passover] holiday, and as far as it possible for the workforce in Israel to return to work, we will start to develop a better idea of the direction of things."
The Employment Service also noted a significant increase in minorities applying for unemployment benefits in April. Jobseekers of Muslim, Druze and Christian origin increased to 25.5% of all claimants, compared to 17.6% in March.
A similar increase was also identified among older jobseekers. Individuals aged 55 and over represent 17.6% of claims submitted in April, compared to 14.8% in March.