Israel Worries about the Long-Term; U.S., Not so Much

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

February 4, 2016

Once again, Israel is showing that it has its citizens’ best interests at heart, and is willing to take action to prove it, while the U.S. Congress, so it would seem, has never heard of long-term, at least as it applies to border security and worker protection.

By 2013, Israel completely shut down a huge African illegal immigrant influx when it completed a 245-foot fence across the Sinai Peninsula. The New York Times confirmed how successful the fence was in an Op-Ed column written by Tel Aviv-based Jewish Journal political editor Shmuel Rosner. Wrote Rosner:

“In the last days of December, the number of illegal immigrants entering Israel dropped to zero for the first time in more than half a decade. The new fence that Israel is constructing along its border with Egypt, coupled with enhanced border-security measures, seems to be working.”

Israel moves to minimize harm to its workers, citizens.

In another example of how Israel worries about its citizens’ futures, the Israeli legislature has set aside February 2 to study the effect of automation on the country’s workers, and to take steps to minimize harm. According to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, computers will perform close to half the jobs in the developed world. In Europe, within the next decade or two, 54 percent of all jobs are at high risk; in the United States, 47 percent, and in Israel, 41 percent, statistics that alarm Israel’s leaders.

The government formed an Education Committee to study what the labor market will look like in 2050 and how to better prepare universities and their students for a radically deteriorating job market during the next 35 years by which time human bus drivers may be nonexistent.

According to Martin Ford, author of “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,” human displacement by robots is already underway. In his interview with the Times of Israel, Ford said that in the U.S. automation has contributed “to stagnant wages, declining workforce participation, labor’s declining share of income, less robust job creation, longer jobless recoveries and a hollowing out of middle-skill jobs.”

Ford is pessimistic about the possibility, predicted by some, that technology will create enough new jobs to offset the lost ones. Said Ford: “… these jobs constitute a very small percentage of total employment. So it is hard to believe there will be enough such jobs created for everyone that will be displaced from traditional occupations.”

Putting too much faith in what task forces and blue ribbon panels like Israel’s Education Committee can realistically accomplish is unwise. But at least the Israeli government acknowledges the threats automation and illegal immigrants pose to its society.

Contrast Israel’s attitude to Washington’s where the immediate concerns are, despite Ford’s dire summary of the U.S. economy, whether the Supreme Court will rule to give 5 million illegal immigrants employment authorization and which presidential candidates favor increasing the caps on overseas worker visas.

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