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Jerusalem businesses still struggling to hire workers

CM 24/05/2021 2

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The streets of Jerusalem are once again bustling with life, as Israel’s most recent military campaign is behind us, and the panic of coronavirus lockdowns in Israel increasingly feels like a distant memory. But while the restaurants and cafes in the center of the city seem to be full, the economic reality is still complicated, and you get a different picture depending on who you ask.”We have enough workers now, but in the beginning of the recovery from the pandemic in April, it was very difficult,” says Anat, manager of the Piccolino Italian restaurant. “We pay our workers very well, and we treat them like family, so we had an easier time rehiring than other restaurants, which are really struggling.”Anat says the business is operating at a sustainable level. “Customers started coming back right after Passover, when things started opening up. We’ve been getting around 60% of our normal business, although it was quieter during the rockets. What’s missing are the tourists, who make up an important part of our business. There was internal tourism in April, but because of the violence, there wasn’t much in May. There are no foreign tourists now, but hopefully, they will start coming back when the Health Ministry opens up flights in the coming months.”Restaurants and other businesses with low-skilled workers are having trouble hiring because the government’s coronavirus safety net promises job seekers up to 70% of their original wages through the end of June, and many people are happy to enjoy what is essentially a paid vacation as long as they can. It is not yet clear what will happen to unemployment benefits come July 1 as the Finance Ministry seeks to create a plan that will push more people to return to the workforce while providing financial security for the many households that still don’t have a breadwinner.Some have been lucky with hiring, especially those who offer good conditions. “As of last month, we have all the workers we need,” says Shai, the owner of the Naadi Cafe on Hillel Street. “Why? Because I pay well, and because we are located in a building that is a dormitory for 400 students studying at Jerusalem universities. That helps. But most other restaurants are having a very difficult time hiring.”And restaurants aren’t the only ones. In the Hagara women’s clothing store on Jaffa Street, the branch manager, Robert, says sales have returned to about 80% of what it was before the pandemic. However, the clothing chain, with some 30 stores around the country, is struggling to hire, and that is harming the business. “We have fewer drivers and clerks, and it affects our daily operations,” he said. He adds that some of his customers may still be in a ‘pandemic slump’ and not yet be in a mindset to start buying new clothes yet.Meanwhile, at the McDonald’s restaurant on Shamai Street, the challenge is somewhat different. The branch, which underwent a significant renovation during the most recent lockdown, has all of its workers back, but because many are Israeli Arabs, absenteeism was a problem during the military campaign. “Many of our workers have been afraid to come in, due to the fear of civil violence,” says the branch manager.

At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafe on Jaffa Street, the past month has been extremely difficult, says the branch manager, Uriel. A month ago, Uriel told us that the cafe had only succeeded in rehiring 20% of the staff it needs for regular operations, and that the business was suffering because of it.Things haven’t gotten much better since then, Uriel shrugs when asked about it. “Come back in a few weeks. I hope things will be better then.”
Source: Jerusalem Post

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