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Empowerment programs and professional training.

A. Introduction

Since the mid-1990s, with launch of the "Welfare to Work" program in the United States, the "New Deal" in Britain, and later the OECD's "Jobs Strategy," industrialized countries have been working to raise the employment rate by direct intervention in the labor force, particularly among recipients of welfare in various countries, and also by making adjustments to the system of taxation and financial incentives for specific population groups. Since the late 1990s in the United States and the early 2000s in Britain, there has been recognition of the need to offer ongoing assistance to promote employment retention and advancement in an effort to combat poverty. Intensive follow-up studies, some using random sampling techniques, were designed to allow direct study of the question "what works?" However, they do not provide unequivocal answers. Moreover, the success of activities designed to foster employment has varied in different countries, among different program operators, and among different target populations. (1,2,3,4)

Nevertheless, it is clear that suitable employment is key to getting out of poverty and that governments must continue to work in several directions to increase workforce participation and ensure employment retention and advancement for persons earning low salaries. The prevailing assumption is that employment is critical to leaving the ranks of poverty, and indeed examination of the poverty data in Israel shows that while about 90% of persons living in households with no wage earner fall beneath the poverty line, this significantly drops to 35% with one wage earner in the household, and to 5% in a household with two breadwinners.

The trend, however, is increasing poverty among working families. The proportion of working families among the poor was 28% in the early 1990s and then rose to 46% in 2006, with more than half the poor living in working households, generally with one breadwinner.5 This, combined with the aforesaid, underscores the need to upgrade the employment of lowsalaried workers.

B. Employment Programs in Israel

Employment programs in Israel can be generally divided into two categories: (a) Programs that target recipients of welfare payments (income support, unemployment benefits)--the Employment Service, Orot LaTa'asuka.

(b) Voluntary programs for those who do not receive welfare payments--Tevet, other government ministries.

I will discuss the second group: voluntary programs. But first, a few words about the program Orot LaTa'asuka, which primarily teaches "soft skills" to facilitate transition into the work force: This is an experimental program with accompanying research by the National Insurance Institute and the Brookdale Institute. The most recent follow-up study6 indicates that employment in the experimental group was 10% higher than employment in the control group, with the greatest impact occurring among single mothers--20% more employed. Those in the experimental group also earned larger salaries, but this stems from longer working hours, not a higher hourly wage. The hourly wage in both the experimental and control groups was at the level of the minimum wage.

The Tevet Programs

Tevet is an initiative founded jointly three years ago by the JDC-Israel and the Government of Israel with the aim of developing programs to promote and integrate vulnerable populations into the labor force in order to improve the quality of their lives. Approximately one million people of working age (22-64) are not employed (out of a total of 3.4 million people in this age group). Of these, almost 740,000 do not participate in the labor force, i.e., do not work and are not actively searching for a job. The analysis by Brookdale revealed that there are five general target populations with regard to employment: Arabs, immigrants (particularly from Ethiopia), the disabled, ultra-Orthodox, and young people lacking family support.

The Tevet programs operate according to several key principles:


Tevet's goal is to advance the target group in their jobs, not just integrate them into low-level positions--which would only increase the number of working poor.


Emphasis on multi-culturalism and removing obstacles that characterize the employment situation of each group.


The goal of the program is to provide basic tools for employability,7 find jobs, and, following a period of work, examine options for employment upgrading.

During its first three years, approximately 30,000 people participated in the various Tevet programs. Since these are programs in development, participants are monitored and data collected into a large database. Most of the programs are also accompanied by research that allows for drawing conclusions and adapting the program in real time, as well as a final study about the effectiveness of the programs.

From the report findings and the insights of Tevet professionals, several primary conclusions can be drawn about employment programs in general, and those for women in particular.

First, "Does it work?"

The high job placement rates in Tevet's various programs indicate that the programs do succeed in finding jobs. With respect to upgrading, however, significant success is not yet evident, although it should be noted that these programs have been in place for no more than three years, which is not sufficient time to allow for meaningful advancement or salary increase.

Second, "What works?"

a. As planned, women are well represented in the various programs. Because the programs are voluntary, the assumption is that more women come because asking for assistance is easier for women.

b. One of the most important components of the various programs is the case manager who accompanies the client throughout the program. Beyond the stage of training for employability and job placement, the manager continues to provide assistance and is sometimes the key factor facilitating job retention--especially among more vulnerable populations

c. Encouraging entrepreneurship among women can contribute to employment, but a relatively small proportion of such businesses survive and the income is generally low (this is also evident in research by Sa'ar, 20078). Nevertheless, for some women, especially from traditional backgrounds, this option makes it possible to increase family income while utilizing existing skills.

d. For immigrants from Ethiopia, language is a significant factor in their ability to advance in their jobs. Many women immigrants find blue-collar jobs like cleaning and home care for the elderly. For almost any other kind of work, they need to improve their Hebrew language skills. Tevet develops programs to teach Hebrew for employment, including a website developed together with MATI.

e. For activity in the field, Tevet seeks coordinators and project managers who are close to the target population. Working through people who know the population well--its needs, strengths, and obstacles--allows the program to overcome cultural obstacles as well as resistance towards outsiders perceived as part of the establishment.

f. Concerning women from Ethiopia and Arab women, one of the insights of this employment program is that in order to integrate the women successfully and preserve their home environment, agreement must be reached with the spouse. This can be done through empowerment of the women and strengthening their belief that they have the right to selfrealization and work outside the home, and also through teaching inter-family negotiation skills to prevent strong opposition.

Third, "What works less?" or "What's next?"

a. Because the Tevet program is aimed at groups not receiving welfare payments, extended programs that improve skills and employability, but do not end in certification or an attractive job, would not find participants over time. A partial solution is to provide loans as subsistence payments for the period of study.

b. Retention and advancement--From its inception, Tevet targeted job retention and advancement as a primary objective of employment. In other countries, retention and advancement are facilitated by close work with the employers and a dual-client perception--the employer as an additional client of a supply-side employment program. Tevet is currently developing models of possible career paths in cooperation with employers; these projects are still in their infancy and will be a challenge in the coming years.

c. Support services--Support services such as child-care frameworks and transportation are of great importance. Although these services generally exist in Israel, their cost--despite the existing subsidy--is often high, which impedes the decision to go to work, especially for a full-time job. Today government programs subsidize day-care centers and provide support for day camps during the summer. Assistance should be expanded to additional groups and services, especially with regard to transportation.

d. Vocational training--Government allocations for vocational training courses have severely declined in recent years. Furthermore, for population groups that do not participate in the workforce, integration into subsidized training programs is often more complicated. Tevet does not seek to replace the state in providing services, and therefore it depends primarily on governmental sources for such training. Thus, while it is known today that the advancement of workers requires vocational training, in stages, throughout their professional lives, the sources for this training--their funding and the provision of subsistence allowances during the training--are limited and therefore require rethinking. In the last two years, the Finance Ministry, Tevet, and the Government Employment Service have been promoting the idea of personal vouchers for training as a flexible solution for vocational training.

e. Adult education--As with vocational training, funding for adult education has also diminished over the years, despite the fact that education and training are the main tools that enable low-skilled workers to keep their jobs in a dynamic labor market where burnout is rapid and skills quickly become obsolete. Updating skills, adult education, and study throughout one's working life are necessary in the modern job market in order to advance.

Respondent: Noga Dagan-Buzaglo--Researcher, Adva Center

I will respond to the speaker by telling a story that Barbara and I heard from Yaakov Zigdon. Yaakov told us about a cleaning woman employed at the Government Employment Service. One day a woman asked her how much she earned and how she managed to support herself. The cleaning woman--who had no idea that the questioner was the director-general of the Employment Service--told her that she worked a few hours in the morning cleaning the offices of the Employment Service and then went down a floor to sign up for an income supplement [on the basis of her low wage]. In the afternoons she also did housecleaning for a few hours a day. In total, she took in about NIS 10,000 a month. I think Yaakov told us the story in order to illustrate the problem of pretenders, but Barbara and I considered the woman a heroine. Why is she a heroine? First of all, none of us would like to be in her place; her workday is not one that I would wish upon anyone; also, I think she is a terrific acrobat. It is abundantly clear that she would not be able to support her children on the wages from a part-time job. In order to support her children, she needs to fool the state. We do not consider her a parasite, a lazy person or an exploiter, even if she pretends to earn less than she does. The story of that woman reflects the basic obstacle standing in the way of encouraging women to go out to work in order to improve their situations. The general problem is the low wage and the interchangeability of social assistance and wages, a point that did not come up in the discussion. If we look at the secondary labor market, that is, the labor market in which there is high turnover, low wages, part-time jobs, insecurity, and mediated employment--then even if we get women into that labor market, in most cases they will not be able to improve their economic situation, nor will they be able to lighten the burden of paid and unpaid work. In this respect, even the Tevet programs cannot help. The design of the programs is very good, but under present conditions in the labor market, it is very difficult to improve women's situation by encouraging them to do paid work, even if they receive empowerment on the way. This is also true for the welfare reform program. Even when women got jobs, they were able to increase their income by NIS 400--less than it costs to go to work.

(1.) Dan Bloom, Richard Hendra, Jocelyn Page (2006). The Employment Retention and Advancement Project, Results from the Chicago ERA Site. MDRC. New York.

(2.) David Navarro, Mark van Dok, Richard Hendra (2007). The Employment Retention and Advancement Project, Results from the Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) Program in Riverside, California. MDRC. New York.

(3.) James A. Riccio, Helen Bewley, Verity Campbell-Barr, Richard Dorsett, Gayle Hamilton, Lesley Hoggart, Alan Marsh, Cynthia Miller, Kathryn Ray and Sandra Vegeris (2008). Implementation and second-year impacts for lone parents in the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) demonstration. A report of research carried out by a research consortium consisting of three British organizations (the Policy Studies Institute, the Office for National Statistics, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies) and MDRC, a US-based nonprofit social policy research firm, which is leading the consortium on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. Department for Work and Pensions, Research Report No 489. Norwich NR3 1BQ.

(4.) Income inequality and poverty rising in most OECD countries (2008). OECD Press conference. 0,3343,en_2649_201185_41530009_1_1_1_1,00.html

(5.) Poverty and inequality in dividing up the income (2007). Annual Review, National Insurance Institute, Jerusalem.

(6.) Leah Achdut, Miriam Schmeltzer, Gabriela Heilbrun, Alexander Galia, Tami Eliav, Esther Toledano, Netanela Barkali, Denise Naon, Jack Habib, Judith King, Assaf Ben-Shoham, Noam Fishman, Abraham Wolde-Tsadick, Pnina Neuman (2007). Research Reports of the Mehalev Program: Evaluation of Mehalev: Report No. 4 (summary): Findings on Monitoring Impact of the Mehalev Program: Those eligible at the start of the program ("the inventory") - 15 months of the program and new applicants ("the flow")--six months after submission of the claim. National Insurance Institute and the Meyers Brookdale Institute, Jerusalem. Publications/_%20_/winsconsin%20doch%204%2011_07_2007.pdf

(7.) Yossi Tamir and Zohar Neuman (2007). Employability and Incentive to Work: Implications for the Israeli Reality, Policy Paper, Social Policy Research Group, The Hebrew University, Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare (Hebrew).

(8.) Amalia Sa'ar (2007). A Business of Your Own. National Insurance Institute, Jerusalem. D7%A2%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9D%20%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%95%D7%97%D7%93%D7%99%D7%9D/ mifal_112.pdf

Dr. Sigal Shelach, Director, Division for Immigrants and Arabs, Tevet
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Title Annotation:Adva Center Conference on Budgets and Gender
Author:Shelach, Sigal
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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