Knesset Employment Symposium

Research from the Taub Center shedding light on the state of employment in Israel was presented in six Knesset committees and a closing panel.

Date: February 02, 2016

Taub Center researchers were central participants in the day-long Knesset Employment Symposium organized by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid). The symposium aimed to explore how employment in Israel is changing and how the government can best prepare the next generation of Israelis to enter the labor market.

MK Lavie opened the day with the message: “Israel has fallen asleep. We’ve fallen asleep on the job. We are continuing to raise our children with the same understandings and with the same education system that we grew up with. And the world is changing. We are not giving our children and grandchildren the tools, opportunities, and skills they need to succeed.”

Research from the Taub Center shedding light on the state of employment in Israel was presented in six Knesset committees throughout the course of the day, as well as in the closing panel.

In the Economic Affairs Committee, Executive Director Avi Weiss spoke about the Small Business Law that passed in the Knesset the previous day. As shown through the joint Taub Center and OECD conference that took place on February 1st, a major reason for high cost of living in Israel is a lack of competition. Prof. Weiss said that well-crafted legislation and policies for small businesses could potentially help bring much-needed competition into the system that would have an impact on the market as a whole.

Both Prof. Weiss and Senior Researcher Eitan Regev spoke in the State Control Committee. Prof. Weiss presented Researcher Shavit Madhala-Brik’s recent study showing that about 40% of hours worked in Israel are in occupations at risk of being replaced by computers over the next two decades. Eitan Regev discussed an oversaturation of lawyers and accountants entering the work force as well as the challenges of integrating members of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population into the labor market.

Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass presented before the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee on best practices for addressing changes in the labor market through Israel’s education system. The system, says Blass, needs to both ground students in basic skills that are broadly applicable and provide relevant professional training that will prepare students for their future occupations.

In the Status of Women and Gender Equality Committee, Researcher Hadas Fuchs presented on women’s position in the Israeli labor market, including the wage gap between men and women, the relationship between education and employment, and an analysis of the reasons women choose to work part time as compared with men.

The Science and Technology Committee discussed how robots, computers, and technology in general will change the landscape of the future labor market. Both the MKs present (MK Uri Maklev (UTJ), MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union), and MK Haim Yalin (Yesh Atid)) and Prof. Weiss discussed the demographic implications of computerization in Israeli industries. The non-Jewish population is at higher and more immediate risk of their jobs being replaced by computers. This is because about 52% of the non-Jewish population is employed in construction and industry, fields in which technology is replacing employees at a fast pace.

Claude Berrebi, Director of Research at the Taub Center, spoke before the Subcommittee on the Status of the Elderly (under the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee), discussing the state of employment and poverty in Israel’s elderly populations. He highlighted that elderly Israelis across different population groups are employed at a higher rate than in the past, meaning that people are retiring later.

The Employment Day concluded with a panel of experts, moderated by MK Aliza Lavie. The panel included Prof. David Passig, a futurist who specializes in forecasting technological and social trends; Adina Bar-Shalom, recipient of the Israel Prize, Founder of the Haredi College in Jerusalem; MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), former Minister of Health; Prof. Avi Simhon, head of the National Economic Council; Michal Tzuk, Director of Employment Regulation & Senior Deputy Director General, Ministry of Economy; and the Taub Center’s Prof. Avi Weiss. Prof. Weiss stressed the importance of adequately preparing Israelis, and particularly those from vulnerable populations, for the jobs of the future. “I could take a Haredi man today and teach him bookkeeping,” he said. “Why would I teach him bookkeeping? Because it’s a thing that is relatively easy to learn and will get him into the labor market relatively quickly. But, in five years, nobody will need him! So, either we need to give him something else to learn at the same time, or we need to try to provide him with a broader education.”

Prof. Weiss also reminded the panel that not all jobs are at risk. Jobs that require a personal touch and creativity are at much lower risk of computerization. For example, jobs in health services such as doctors, psychologists, and caretakers, will continue to be needed. “The things that will disappear,” Prof. Weiss cautioned, “where we need to be careful, are the jobs that require repetitive tasks. These are the jobs that are easy to replace with computers.”