Arab housekeeping and maintenance staff at Dead Sea hotels who are residents of Israel and who stay on the job for at least a year will be entitled to a 5,000 shekel ($1,400) grant through a pilot program sponsored by the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry.
The program, which was initiated by the Tourism Ministry in an effort to address the labor shortage in the hotel industry, particularly at Dead Sea hotels, was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Regulatory Affairs, and has the force of a cabinet resolution. According to the Dead Sea Hotel Association there is a shortage of 600 regular employees in the area.
The grant provided by the pilot is available to Arab employees including Bedouin, Druze as well members of Israel’s Circassian minority who work in maintenance or housekeeping jobs at hotels along the Dead Sea for a continuous period of 12 months. There are a number of Bedouin communities relatively near the Dead Sea, notably Kseifa, west of Arad. The funding, which Jewish Israelis are not entitled to, is coming from a budget designated for integration of minorities into the workforce. The grant will be paid in two installments in the course of the following year. Part-time employees will be entitled to a pro-rata grant based on number of hours worked.
“This is a remote region where it is difficult to recruit and retain workers, while there is a high rate of unemployment in Bedouin villages and in East Jerusalem,” notes Ella Bar-David, the director of the Labor Ministry’s minority employment branch, which has responsibility for running the pilot program. “We are working in a specific region with a specific population group, and we will examine the program’s effect on retaining workers and addressing the needs in the field. We would like to use workers from the Bedouin villages, where the unemployment rate is high and where [people] can be integrated into entry-level positions at hotels, even if it’s in maintenance and housekeeping positions, and [in the process] avoid bringing in foreign workers.” Bar-David acknowledged that the program was limited in its scope, but said if it is successful, it could be replicated with other population groups and other employers.
The Ministerial Committee for Regulatory Affairs also recently decided to convene a team from the labor, tourism, finance and foreign affairs ministries, along with the Population and Immigration Authority, to develop recommendations on the need to recruit foreign workers, including Jordanians, to work in the hotel industry, particularly in Eilat, just across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba.