In Israel, 1 out of 3 engineers wants to move to the U.S.

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A new report by passive job search company Woo.io has found that 1 in 3 Israeli engineers (38%) are more than willing to look for greener pastures abroad, specifically in the U.S. The report comes complete with a number of other eye-popping statistics that the writers hope will alert the Israeli government to dissatisfaction in the local tech sector.

“Given that most Israeli engineers could improve their working conditions by moving to the U.S., one out of every three want to,” says Liran Kotzer, Founder and CEO of Woo.io. “After engineers and the Israeli government see these numbers, the assumption that Israelis here are a ‘captive audience’ should be considered false.”

Woo, formerly Highr, has software helps calculate how much they would make or how in demand their skill sets are as they research new career options. Users put together a ‘wish list’ of what they would want for salary or where they would like to go. They count Outbrain, Gett, Yahoo!, AOL, WeWork, Wix and Microsoft among companies using their services to recruit new talent.

Ben Gurion International Airport Terminal outside Tel Aviv. Photo Credit: James Emery / Flickr
Ben Gurion International Airport Terminal outside Tel Aviv. (Photo Credit: James Emery / Flickr)

Woo’s warning comes in light of the government’s new Israeli innovation visas for foreign professionals late in 2015. There is clear anxiety in the open letter to the Israeli government about the possibility of a brain drain if Israel is too liberal in handing out more visas, as the average annual American engineer’s salary ($140,800 / 550,000 NIS) nets workers 60% more than the average Israeli engineer’s salary ($88,101 / 344,000 NIS).

“Israeli engineers see very high demand abroad,” Kotzer added. “We are dealing with the dry statistics and cannot know for sure what sort of salary these people would receive at the moment were hundreds of engineers to arrive here [Israel] from abroad.”

Woo stated that among all Israeli companies they surveyed, 100% of Israeli startups were seeking to exploit more open visa policies to recruit engineers from abroad. A full 70% of all companies surveyed said they were prepared to facilitate that immigration. It wasn’t clear if this meant that fewer Israeli companies were willing to hire current visa holders but not necessarily pay their way to the Jewish state.

How do these figures compare to years past?

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics’ latest data on Israeli emigration patterns is from 2013. At that point, a total of 16,200 Israelis had moved abroad, slightly more than the 15,900 recorded in 2012 but the same as the 16,200 noted in 2011. While Israeli governmental efforts have been made in recent years to increase the number of Israeli academics settling permanently in the country rather than abroad, there has been less focus on Israeli hi-tech professionals. This is probably due to the fact that while hi-tech jobs earn less money in Israel, there is not a shortage of these positions, whereas there was in Israeli academia.

If Woo’s numbers indicate a deeper, emerging trend, however, it may be time for the Israeli government to consider mounting similar efforts. Kotzer thought that responsibility for bucking a brain drain trend should rest at the prime minister’s doorstep.

“He must decelerate the process of emigration from Israel.”

Laura Rosbrow-Telem contributed reporting. 

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