With corona cases under control, ravaged Israeli economy takes center stage

Israel may have the pandemic under control for now, but returning to economic health may prove even trickier.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of people in Israel infected with coronavirus has dropped dramatically and the curve for now has flattened, but the unemployment caused by the pandemic is going to take much longer to recover.

A report released by the Central Bureau of Statistics Monday revealed alarming new numbers of workers – both salaried and self-employed – who did not work or worked only partially because of the pandemic. Nearly 1,530,000 people who worked as usual until the pandemic outbreak were either unemployed or only worked part time due to coronavirus-related closures.

The number of corona patients is steadily declining and 85 percent of the 16,734 people infected have so far recovered, while only 115 remain hospitalized. Life is slowly coming back to a new normal, but the unemployment rate that had skyrocketed to 28 percent is not expected to return to its pre-pandemic figures for some time.

A second report by the Bank of Israel predicted that unemployment would fall to to 8.5 percent by the end of 2020, a vast improvement over current numbers but more pessimistic than the 8 percent in the previous forecast and a far cry from the 4 percent of December, 2019.

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The two sectors of the economy hit hardest were service industries, hospitality and food services, where 79 percent of hotel and restaurant workers remain unemployed or partially employed, and the arts, entertainment and leisure sector,where almost three out of every four workers is jobless.

“My two livelihoods have been stopped with a single hit for two and a half months now,” said Raviv Aaron, 27, who manages a pub and coaches judo at several community centers. “My mother is paying my rent and other expenses,” Aaron told Ynet. “I hope to return to work on Wednesday to prepare cocktails and shots while working in gloves and a mask for a sparse number of customers.”

Events manager Eran Klein, 46, said he didn’t get any compensation yet from the government even though his business of organizing weddings, shows and music festivals came to a complete stop.

“How do you support a family when they do not know when it will end? There is no such thing as a country without culture. Without music and joy, it can’t go on like this,” he said.