older jobseekers - Ofer Vaknin - 30112011
Over 3,000 older jobseekers packed Tuesday’s event in Tel Aviv, and most left disappointed. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Soon after the doors opened at for the job fair for job seekers over the age of 60, there was no room to move in either of the two huge halls holding the event. The employment fair was held yesterday morning at the Z.O.A. House (Zionist Organization of America ) in central Tel Aviv. Hundreds were kept out by security guards because of the overcrowding.

There was no privacy whatever for the candidates or the 35 companies and organizations looking for new employees.

The organizers expected a few hundred people, but 3,000 showed up to meet potential employers, including two banks. And the event was barely advertised.

Almost 50% of job seekers registered with the Employment Service, 94,000 out of about 200,000, are over 45. Unemployment increases with age, until 65. The numbers of those seeking employment through the Employment Service is low for those between 18 and 24 - some 13,000, with 36,000 in the 25-34 age group. These numbers are somewhat problematic though, as they reflect those who are signed up with the Employment Service and looking for jobs, and do not necessarily reflect the true jobless numbers, as only those entitled to various state benefits such as unemployment compensation and guaranteed income remain signed up with the Employment Service. There are 41,000 job seekers in the 34-44 age bracket; 44,000 in the 45-54 group; and 49,000 from 55-64. Some 4,400 people registered with the service are 65 and on the verge of retirement age.

This is the first such fair for older workers, and was organized by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry along with the Pensioner Affairs Ministry, the Joint Distribution Committee Israel and the nonprofit Vehadarta organization.

Many of those who attended the fair were disappointed, and not just because there were not enough jobs on offer. Most of the jobs available were temporary and paid low wages, and all have very high turnover rates. These include customer service jobs, for example.

Shelly Zur, a 63-year-old widow, showed up an hour and a half early "to grab a good spot in the line." She worked for 26 years at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, until she had to leave seven years ago for family reasons. She tried to return to the workforce but said she understood there was no point in trying to return to her previous place at the hospital, as it was trying to make its workforce younger and was not interested in hiring older workers. Zur said she made do with temporary jobs, and has been unable to find anything permanent.

Most of those at the fair did not come with overly high expectations after years of looking for appropriate work.

"No employer has said they do not want to hire me because I am 63, because the law forbids rejecting a candidate because of age. But everyone knows how to hint," said Zur.

Finding solutions to the lack of employment opportunities for older workers should be the focus of professional training programs, which must be subsidized by the state, said Yossi Farhi, the head of the Employment Service. He said the main problem is that employers simply do not believe in the abilities of older workers.