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The state-run Employment Service is one of the most efficient services that we have here. The state comptroller checked it out and found that "the efficacy of the Employment Service in reducing unemployment is slight. In the first half of 1999 its rate of placement of job seekers was, on average, 3.7 percent."

In other words, the service managed to find jobs for barely 4 percent of those looking, and that was in a year when companies were out seeking staff. So for such miserable achievements, we have to maintain a structure of 1,100 workers (most of them political appointees) and 120 branches around the country?

Every employer knows that if wants workers, then the Employment Service is the last place to which to turn, because he'll only be kept waiting on the phone, or gets through to a clerk who couldn't care less. Anyone without a job knows that if he really wants to work, he should go to a private placement firm or browse the papers or use his personal contacts - anything other than using the Employment Service. In fact the facility is used principally by those who are out not looking for work, or as the state comptroller put it: "The major product of the Employment Service is the granting of the necessary paperwork to receive unemployment benefits."

This well-known truth is known also to Esther Domisisini, director of the Employment Service. She recently allocated some NIS 2 million to staff bonuses, to be distributed according to the individual's success rate in finding work for the job seeker. The bonus will replace overtime pay, but the true beneficiaries will be the jobless, who will see their chances of finding work rise, says Domisisini.

But this revolutionary idea put the "social-minded" in a frenzy. They object to a system of bonuses which, they claim, will encourage the service to send the jobless out to every job offer, but at a cost of abusing the workers by paying them minimum wages, and the evil government will thereby manage to cut unemployment. From where do they get this frightening scenario? It is difficult to overstate the importance of work. Everyone wants to earn a decent living, without relying on others' goodwill. So why object to a system that encourages this, that will encourage Employment Service staffers to put a little more effort in their own jobs, and to find work for more than 4 percent of those registered, say maybe 40 percent?

Of course, the true solution is to close the Employment Service down completely. Once that is done, all the placement services will be in the private sector and contact between job seekers and employers will improve enormously. When this happens, unemployment benefits will be handled solely by the National Insurance Institute (for those for whom the private placement agencies haven't found work.)

And thus the unemployment figures will fall significantly, society will be healthier, growth will be higher and workers will be more content, having their self-esteem restored through honorably working for a living. Only the "social-minded" will be left out, grating their teeth at the great improvements in society and economy.