Report: Netanyahu Plans to Import Foreign High-tech Workers to Israel

A shortage of engineers and computer scientists is pushing up salaries and eroding Israel’s competitive edge, the finance ministry said in a report last week.

Attendees at the Digital Innovation Festival, an international high-tech gathering, in Tel Aviv, September 9, 2015.
Eyal Toueg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is formulating a plan to attract foreign high-tech workers to Israel, Channel 10 TV reported on Tuesday.

The plan is intended to tackle Israel’s shortage of high-tech workers, particularly engineers, according to the report.

As a first step, the Economy Ministry will issue several hundred work visas for people from abroad with the requisite expertise. In the longer run, the program will be expanded to thousands of visas for software engineers and other high-tech workers with the appropriate skill-sets.

Industry observers believe that the plan, if it succeeds, could lead to significantly reduced high-tech salaries in Israel.

The lack of skilled high-tech workers in Israel is one of the key factors in the slowdown of the country’s high-tech sector, the main engine of economic growth in recent decades, the Finance Ministry said in a report issued last week.

Job growth in the sector has leveled off after years of acceleration, slowing the industry down overall after it surpassed gross domestic product in 10 out of the 14 years leading up to 2012, according to the report. In 2013, the technology sector shrank as overall expansion was 3.4 percent. In the following year, the industry was still a drag on the economy.

The search for experienced engineers is so dire, Bloomberg reported, “that global semiconductor company Applied Materials Inc. is advertising on the radio to fill positions at a research and development center in Rehovot.”

The sector’s biggest challenge, says the report, is to find ways to supply the industry with highly skilled labor as the rate of job growth falls off amid a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, which in turn is pushing up salaries and eroding Israel’s competitive edge.