The plan to import tech workers into Israel to make up for the shortfall in the sector has come under fire. The critics range from junior staff at tech companies and Israelis struggling to find work, as well as employment agencies who cannot place all their candidates and even claim the plan’s aim is to reduce salaries.
Under the plan, first revealed by “Globes” earlier this week, Israel would recruit some 5,000 foreign tech workers including experts in specific fields, foreign students graduating in tech subjects from Israeli universities and colleges, Jewish new immigrants and returning Israelis. The plan has been drawn up by the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of science and Technology, Israel Innovation Authority, and IATA the umbrella organization that represents startups and venture capital funds.
The Israel Innovation Authority will appoint an employment chief who will work with the tech companies to fill job vacancies with the foreign employees. His role will include helping suitable candidates obtain visas and encouraging aliyah (Jewish immigration) from countries like the US and Canada and helping immigrants find jobs, housing and schools for their children. The employment chief will decide which foreign students studying in Israel should receive work visas for after graduation.
But the plan concern junior staff at Israeli tech companies who feel their position will be undermined. Stav Brenner, head of the “Junior Community,” which represents 6,000 young programmers in Israel said, “This measure hits Israeli juniors who work hard and get rejected by recruiters because they don’t have experience. The state should invest in training them for the job market and not import workers from abroad at the expense of Israeli workers.”
Lowering salaries of Israeli developers?
According to the Israel Innovation Authority, Israel’s tech sector has a shortfall of about 14,000 workers, but at the same time there are many who were employed in the field or are looking for jobs after training and not finding work. On the eve of the Covid crisis, 2% of job seekers in Israel were in the tech sector but by April 2020 that figure had jumped to 8.2%. It can be assumed that the unemployment rate in the tech sector has since fallen significantly. For its part, the Israel Innovation Authority insists that there is a substantial shortfall of employees in core technologies and most of the unemployment is in ancillary positions such as marketing and finance, which do not engage in R&D. The Israel Innovation Authority has however in the past called out tech employers for their insistence on only hiring workers with experience.
Ron Ozeri from employment placement agency JobHunt sees dozens of employees like this every day. He claims that the aim of the plan to import tech workers is to reduce salaries. “This thing is unnecessary because there is a market of many talented people who have been pushed out,” Ozeri told “Globes.” We continually see bias against populations like Arabs, the ultra-orthodox and older people that don’t get an equal opportunity in job interviews. The average time for finding a job for Arab engineers is three times longer than the market average and sometimes they even adopt methods like changing the name on their CV in order to be invited to a job interview.”
Despite the criticism and the fact that the plan is still in its initial stages, there are companies eager for it to be immediately implemented. Israeli unicorn and fintech company Melio Payments has asked the Immigration Authority in Israel to allow 20 employees from its development center in Belarus to come to Israel. The development center suffers from the political upheavals in that country and tensions in the functioning of national infrastructures.
“Globes” has seen the request filed by Melio to bring the employees to Israel but if approval is not forthcoming, the company will set up a development center in Dubai and find them asylum there. Melio’s founders wrote, “Unfortunately we have already experienced many times instances in which the Internet connection in Belarus has slowed down, which harmed the routine functioning of the development center and maintenance of the systems. In addition, we believe that locating these developers in Israel will increase the amount of IP developed in Israel, speed up the mutual productivity and add to the local scene a critical mass of software developers.”
Melio does not need to wait for the new plan because there already exists a rapid visas approval track for experts, which with assistance from the Israel Innovation Authority can be approved within 6-10 days.
“Third World War for talents”
Michael Eisenberg, a partner at venture capital fund Aleph, which has invested in Melio as well as JoyTunes and Lemonade, and who is a strong supporter of the plan to import foreign tech employees, told “Globes,” “We are in the Third World War for talented employees. Countries that bring in talents in the tech field will become world tech and economic leaders. Israeli tech is blessed with major investment coming into here but while the talents aren’t here, the taxes that are collected as a result of this investment will flow into other countries – if ultimately Israeli tech companies choose to set up offshore centers abroad.”
“No substitute for creativity in Israel”
Regarding arguments that in the age of Covid, it is better to hire developers abroad than to bring them to Israel, Eisenberg said, “The pandemic may have brought about remote working for Israeli companies but there is no substitute for the creativity that comes from people working together in the same place.”
Ilan Atias, cofounder and CTO of Melio, which recently raised $250 million at a company valuation of $4 billion, said. “There is an overall shortfall of workers in tech professions, and we are very far from meeting the quotas of demand. There is no concern that the new plan will prevent Israelis from integrating into the sector in the future. The employees for whom we are petitioning already work for the company. We are not creating new jobs for them but only asking to change the location where they work, while we continue to hire in an aggressive way in Israel.”
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on October 21, 2021.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.