The Jewish state constantly says that it wants Jews to immigrate and settle down. But if you are an older immigrant don’t expect to get a decent job. This seems to be the consensus of recent interviews with older, highly qualified immigrants who, though well motivated and with superior job experience, couldn’t find anyone willing to consider them for work.
I also found this when I went to Israel a few years ago. People were friendly but not willing to even accept me as a volunteer though in the States I am self-employed and very successful in my field. My Hebrew is pretty decent but the stumbling block was my age. Anyone over the age of 50 was considered over the hill and a poor investment, I was told.
When Mike Diamond immigrated to Israel from South Africa a year and a half ago he didn’t expect a job to fall in his lap. But even though he was prepared for some rejection, Diamond was still shocked by the reception he received from recruiters and potential employers.
“I spoke to a lot of people, to employment agencies,” Diamond, who held a high-level position in a pharmaceutical company back in Cape Town, said of his Israeli job search.
“They all told me the same thing: that I had two strikes against me. My age and the language.”
Diamond was 58 at the time and although he once spent five years living on a kibbutz, “I can talk in Hebrew [only] about cows and tractors,” he said with a laugh. “That wouldn’t matter if I was working for an international company where fluent English is an asset, but no one even gave me a chance. After four employment agencies I gave up.”
Unable to find a job as an executive, Diamond, who lives in the upscale city of Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, now cleans houses for a living.
A few weeks ago, Diamond launched a lively discussion about job hunting and age discrimination over the age of 50 on an English-language user list called Job Networking in Israel.
The responses, from new and veteran immigrants and a handful of native Israelis, revealed just how difficult it can be for older unemployed Israelis, especially immigrants with less-than-stellar Hebrew, to find satisfying, decent-paying employment.
The discussion was both enlightening and potentially worrisome, given the many 40- and 50-somethings from around the world who are expected to make aliyah this summer with Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Jewish Agency and other aliyah organizations.
Benny Fefferman, head of the planning and economy division of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, said that new immigrants enter a job market already saturated with young, eager workers.
“We know it’s harder for older workers, who are competing with younger university graduates who are willing to work for less money,” Fefferman, 61, told The Jewish Week. “There’s a bias against employing older workers, who employers believe aren’t as flexible or creative as younger people. Sure discrimination is against the law, but that doesn’t stop employers from doing it.”
The ministry has a department that deals with complaints of ageism.
Fefferman said statistics showing that just 5.4 percent of men aged 45 to 54 were unemployed in 2008 (compared with 11.9 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 4.3 percent for those over 55) could be misleading.
“That the number isn’t higher is due to the fact that many older people give up on finding work. They lack the tools to search for work,” Fefferman said.
Add to this the fact that the Israeli job market cannot keep up with the number of potential workers (an additional 2 percent every year, compared to 0.5 percent in the U.S.), “and it becomes difficult, especially for older workers,” Fefferman acknowledged.
Fefferman advises potential olim to study the Israeli job market before moving to Israel and to learn as much Hebrew as possible.
Hana Levi-Julian, a psychotherapist in Jerusalem, said Nefesh B’Nefesh “does a good job” of warning potential olim of ageism in the Israeli workplace, but that some immigrants to Israel are nonetheless “unprepared” for the challenge of finding a job over 40 or 50.
“They’re stunned to discover the salaries they thought would meet the needs of their family can be as low as 25 percent of what they were making back home, yet their expenses are almost the same.” Levi-Julian said.
You owe it to yourself to know the facts before you go.
A good soul who lives there and has gone through all of it, has established an info site to help the rest of us. Read it and you will be shocked at the difference between what the government says and the reality on the ground.
Well, maybe you won’t be that shocked. The Israeli government, like many others, is not exactly a bastion of honesty and truth. But that’s another article.