Israel planning trial import of foreign tech workers amid shortage

A traveller walks towards the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport
A traveler walks at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Israel intends to import foreign workers for its high-tech sector on a trial basis to offset a pandemic-era labour shortage, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.

In remarks to his party's legislators, Lieberman said Israel was experiencing a labour shortage across the economy as a whole during the coronavirus pandemic, with employers demanding action from the government, including work permits for foreigners.

"We will carry out a kind of experiment in the high-tech sector. We will approve bringing in foreign workers - even for the high-tech sector," he said in his comments, broadcast on Israeli television.

Lieberman gave no numbers or timeframe for the trial in Israel's booming high-tech industry, which raised $25 billion this year.

Foreigners are currently not allowed into the country in a bid to slow the spread of the COVID-19's Omicron variant.

Avi Hasson, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit group that closely follows the Israeli tech ecosystem, said the sector is suffering "a chronic shortage of tens of thousands of employees".

Salaries in the tech industry are far higher than the country's average, and it employs about 10% of the national workforce. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he hopes that figure would rise to 15%.

Local tech companies compete fiercely for jobs with hundreds of multinational firms with R&D centres in Israel, including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Intel.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Steven Scheer Editing by Nick Zieminski

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