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Israel's Finance Minister: Migrant Workers are to Blame for Many of Israel's Economic Problems

On November 17, 2009

Israel's Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz publicly confirmed today that his ministry is looking for the funds for a wall across the Egyptian-Israeli border, though which many migrant workers and refugees enter Israel. This is one of the moves the Israeli government is considering in its efforts to reduce the number of migrant workers in Israel. Israeli media reported about this possibility in late July, when it was discussed between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Steinitz. Based on Steinitz's statement, it seems the plan has been approved in principle by Netanyahu.

In his public talk as the Sderot Conference, Steinitz blamed migrant workers for many of the ills afflicting Israel's economy. According to him, migrant workers are hurting the lower class in Israel by taking away jobs that would have gone to Israelis. Steinitz added that the large number of migrant workers in Israel is the cause for the significant income gap between Israel's rich and poor. Migrant workers, according to the Finance Minister, are also the reason why Israel's poor haven't benefited from the economic growth in Israel over the last few years.

What Steinitz is ignoring is that migrant workers take jobs that Israelis are unwilling to take. Israelis continue to refuse to work in blue-collar jobs in construction and agriculture. Despite being largely uneducated, unemployed Israelis are unwilling to do manual labor. Attempts by the government to force Israelis into these jobs to decrease unemployment have failed in the past. Despite what Dr. Steinitz claims, the laziness of Israelis and government policies are to blame for the the problems in Israel's economy, not migrant workers.