What's making the minister of industry, trade and labor so happy these days? "It's such a pleasure to visit Modiin Illit, to enter the office and see 1,400 haredi women working in front of computers and another 300 answering telephones," said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) Thursday during a speech at the annual congress of the Manufacturers Association of Israel in Airport City.
Ben-Eliezer, who spoke of his ministry's efforts to recruit Arabs and haredim into the workforce, was referring of course to the joy he feels as the minister responsible for employment, due to the fact that the women work at all.
"We are concentrating on three population groups: Arabs, haredim and those with disabilities," the minister said. "I call on you, the manufacturers, to do all you can to assist these groups to integrate into the workplace. Their integration into an employment framework is the most important thing for our economy today."
"Today there are 120 Arab university graduates, some of whom are scientists and professors, and we should be proud of that. They have the potential to contribute enormously to Israel's economy. Their integration in the workforce will help prevent certain socio-economic processes which, unfortunately, have already begun," he added.
Ben-Eliezer also addressed the common claim that the government does not provide enough training for the unemployed. "Today we are all set to provide professional training in every field, and we are just waiting for employers to request it," he said. "If an employer says he needs workers in a particular field, from pastry chefs to blacksmiths, we will ensure training for that field."
He also spoke of the renewal of copper mining at Park Timna, planned by AHMSA Steel Israel. "This factory saved Eilat," he said. "It provided 600 jobs in the factory itself and about 1000 additional jobs in businesses that grew up around the site."
Ben-Eliezer, who returned this week from a successful visit to India, spoke excitedly about his impressions from this huge country. "The future of the world's economy is China and India," he said. "The Indians are closer to us, in mentality and human warmth, in politics and security issues. Also, in their openness and thirst for Israeli technology."
The minister also noted, "It's amazing how in that huge country they are aware of every little thing that happens here, and they are interested in Israeli technology in every field – communications, water, sustainable energy, and things related to internal security."