Employment initiative for disabled launched

Program will ‘set an example for the private sector,’ says official.

wheelchair 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
wheelchair 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor launched a new initiative this week aimed at increasing the representation of people with disabilities in all government offices, both national and local, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.
“It’s important for people to realize that there is an additional group in our society, and that those with disabilities are able to work and contribute to the labor market just like anyone else,” Beni Fefferman, director of the Administration for the Integration of People with Disabilities in the Labor Market, told the Post in an interview.
Fefferman added that it was time for the public sector to set an example for businesses, which in turn would make disabled people more visible.
The initiative, which was established by a committee made up of directors-general from various ministries, will encourage all government offices to invest up to NIS 1 million in efforts to hire people with disabilities of between 40 and 70 percent via manpower agencies.
According to Fefferman, this is the only way people with disabilities can be hired for government work without having to sit through grueling civil service exams required of all government employees. The exam and the corresponding bureaucratic hiring process, which are required by law, have long proven extremely tricky for members of Israel’s various minority groups.
“They will not be full workers of the government,” Fefferman explained, adding that “three manpower companies will be outsourced to oversee their employment for a period of four years.”
He said that letters had gone out urging other ministries to join Industry, Trade and Labor in the initiative, and that he was still awaiting a response.
“We are optimistic that others will join us,” Fefferman said. “We have already appointed a person in our ministry to provide training and assistance to all those involved.”
Israel’s Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair welcomed the initiative.
“I definitely think that an allinclusive workforce in this age and time is very important,” she said. “And definitely in the long run, as we learn to be allinclusive, this will provide economic growth.”
Koenig-Yair added: “Israel is a very diverse society and it is important that we tap into all of our manpower resources.”
Yuval Wagner, founder and director of Access Israel, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for improving accessibility for those with disabilities, also said the initiative was a positive step, but cautioned that it needed to be implemented correctly in order for it to succeed.
“If this program is successful, the government will set an example for the private business sector,” Wagner said.
“However, it’s not only about hiring people with disabilities – it’s also about making sure they stay in such positions for a long time and are given the tools to succeed.”
Wagner explained that people with disabilities have often been unemployed for long periods of time or have undergone harrowing experiences and need psychological help and support to get them back in the work environment.
“It’s a very complex process,” he said, adding that he was also concerned that those set to be employed under the initiative would be going through manpower agencies.
“This means they will not receive all the benefits that other government employees receive,” he cautioned. “We will just have to wait and see how this plays out.”