A government proposal to import foreign workers for the high-tech industry got a stiff rebuff from the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee, Arutz Sheva reported.
“This is a crazy idea,” said Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Camp). “Soon we will begin to import citizens from abroad. We must think of other solutions to the shortage, such as integrating workers over the age of 40, who left the high-tech industry, as well as integrating Arabs, chareidim, and women.”
MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) branded the idea as “irresponsible and hasty,” and said that other possible remedies for Israel’s hi-tech industry should be explored, “without bringing in engineers from abroad.”
The idea, which is aimed at holding down high wages in the sector, primarily among computer engineers, was first floated after a mid-February report from the Finance Ministry which warned that Israel was not producing enough new computer science graduates to sustain growth in the hi-tech industry.
The report said the hi-tech sector, long praised as the engine of Israel’s economic growth, has run out of fuel since 2010, growing at less than half the pace of the economy at large.
But experts who testified at the committee hearing on Wednesday challenged the Ministry’s assessment, claiming that large numbers of qualified people have been left out of the hi-tech sector.
“We must first utilize the potential of the workers in Israel,” said Shlomo Waxe, director general of the Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries.
Waxe noted that more than 5,000 professionals are qualified for hi-tech jobs, “but companies are not willing to hire them due to lack of experience or training,” preferring instead to look to workers abroad rather than invest in training local workers.
Yael Mazuz, who heads the Finance Ministry’s High Skilled Employment project, answered the charges, saying that, on the contrary, bringing in foreign workers would actually increase the number of jobs available to Israelis.