Social rights groups call for new employment initiative

"Not a program run by profit-seeking private companies."

Employment 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Employment 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
A collection of social rights groups put pressure on the government Monday to create a new welfare-to-work initiative that would be run exclusively by the state, not outsourced to private companies that stand to make a profit at the expense of those seeking work.
The 12-page proposal, which also outlines other key points that must be included in any new employment plan to make it fair and humane, comes just over a month after the controversial welfare-to work program known as the Wisconsin Plan (Lights to Employment) was scrapped by the government and the responsibility for all unemployed people was returned to the National Employment Service.
“We want a new plan that will improve the life conditions of those who are out of work, and not a program that is run by private companies who stand to make a profit,” the organizations wrote in a joint statement. “We want a program that is built on the belief that it is not the fault of the unemployed person that he cannot find work.” The document was drafted by representatives from Rabbis for Human Rights, Hakeshet Hademocratit Hamizrahit (The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow), the Association for Civil Rights, Community Advocacy (Senigor Kehilati) and Sa’at al-Amal (Labor Voices) and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Treasury, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and a whole host of government bodies involved in working with the unemployed.
“We hope that the State of Israel will create a new program that will really help the unemployed return to work,” commented Rabbi Idit Lev, director of social and economic justice programs for Rabbis for Human Rights.
“We hope that such a program will be operated together with steps taken to enhance the job market, too.” According to Lev, the Wisconsin Plan, which was set up here four years ago and run by four multinational companies in Hadera, Nazareth, Ashkelon-Sderot and Jerusalem, was extremely problematic. It forced people to spend up to 40 hours a week at the four employment centers just to keep them from working on the black market and failed to provide them with real, tangible training to find work. In addition, claimed Lev, participants were sent regularly to work in community service jobs for little or no pay.
“[The Wisconsin Plan] was simply not a good one,” she stated, adding, “There needs to be real and serious professional training and work placements that will give the unemployed the tools to return to the workplace.” Among the points outlined by Lev and the other social rights activists is to provide effective training and real incentives to encourage people to return to work, find a way to minimize or ease the poverty facing those who go from welfare to minimum wage, and to create a program that will address Israel’s wide variety of cultural groups, not just one track for all.
“It is still not too late to learn from past experiences,” said Lev, adding that Israel should look to programs both here and abroad.
Asked whether she was concerned that the Treasury would hesitate to invest in another initiative now that the program had been terminated and deemed a failure, Lev responded: “We know that the Finance Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office really want to create a new employment program. All we are doing is making sure that it will go in the right direction.” A spokesman for the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry told the Post that discussions were currently under way with the Treasury on what format any new employment program would take. He refused to comment on the points outlined by Rabbis for Human Rights and the other nonprofit groups.