Shavei Israel researcher publishes study looking at motivation among immigrants from India and Peru

Shavei Israel researcher publishes study looking at motivation among immigrants from India and Peru

Shavei researcher Dr. Efrat Kedem

Shavei researcher Dr. Efrat Kedem

“Is motivation essential for creating new lifestyles?” While the question may seem a general one, for Dr. Efrat Kedem, it has been anything but. Kedem has been researching the role of motivation with a specific group of young women who have immigrated to Israel with the assistance of Shavei Israel.

Over a period of five years, from 2008-2013, Kedem tracked 30 women from two communities: the Bnei Menashe from northeastern India, and the Bnei Moshe, who hail from Peru. Kedem’s research was published last month in the journal, Review of International Comparative Management.

Kedem’s 15-page scholarly paper starts by pointing out a well known but still astonishing fact: that from the time Israel was founded in 1948 through 2013, the Jewish State has absorbed 3,150,000 people – nearly 50% of the country’s total population.

Kedem then goes on to describe the unique challenges facing her study group of immigrants upon their arrival in Israel. “The education and professions acquired in their countries of origin do not allow them to integrate into the dynamic employment market in Israel, which mostly requires an academic education or a high level of technology,” Kedem writes. As a result, these immigrants tend to be “marginalized into the secondary labor market” in Israel.

Government attempts to intervene with Bnei Menashe and Bnei Moshe women in the past were mostly unsuccessful, Kedem points out. This led Shavei Israel in 2004 to decide to take on the challenge of their integration directly. The successes have been significant. Kedem praises Shavei Israel in her paper for “encouraging innovation among [its own] employees, supervisors and administrators,” which are then “implemented in the field.”

This innovation can be seen in the flexibility Shavei showed when its first attempt at finding creative employment training for the immigrants didn’t take hold. Thirty Bnei Menashe and Bnei Moshe women, aged 18-45, studied towards a certificate as senior care assistants in hospitals or nursing homes. But, due to long commutes, relatively low wages, a lack of options for advancement and physically draining work, there was a high drop out rate. After three years, only a third of the women trained were still working in the field.

A breakthrough came in 2007 when Kedem learned from the Jerusalem Employment Service that the profession of dental assistant was in especially high demand in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, where many of the immigrants live. (Out of the 1,685 members of the Bnei Menashe living in Israel in 2007, 980 lived in the greater Jerusalem area, Kedem writes.)

The need was fueled by a new Knesset resolution that had just gone into effect at the time. It required all dentists to employ a certified assistant, leading to a sudden shortage. The Employment Service agreed to accept women who were not (yet) fluent in Hebrew and to provide additional language lessons.

The model had already proved itself several years before, even before the new Knesset law, when 50 Jewish immigrants to Israel who had come from Iran received dental assistant training in the city of Holon. 95 percent passed their tests and all found jobs in either private clinics or those associated with the main Israeli health funds.

Since 2008, thirty women from India and Peru have trained to be dental assistants through a course offered by the Department of Community Dentistry at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Of those, 91 percent are currently employed (including 100 percent of those graduating in the most recent academic year).

In her research, Kedem wanted to know what role motivation played in the participants’ successful completion of the course and subsequent employment.

Kedem found that the motivation to look for something better and more rewarding than their previous jobs working in senior care, and with “improved work conditions characterized 90 percent of those interviewed.” This reflects a change from their previous social milieu in India and Peru, Kedem points out.

In India, for example, “frugality is the norm,” Kedem writes. But “in Israel, people aspire for more. The moment [the immigrants] had the opportunity to rise, they took advantage of it. In Israel they undergo accelerated change processes.” And so, while they came from generally “unambitious societies…80 percent of those interviewed expressed the concept of wanting more job satisfaction.”

Most of the immigrants trained as dental assistants rather than hygienists, even though the latter pays some 30 percent more, because the need for assistants is considerably greater. Still, financial motivation remains a factor, and two of the immigrants have continued with their studies to train as full-fledged hygienists. “The option of advancement and self-empowerment is a motivational accelerant and a powerful spur,” Kedem concludes.

The immigrants comprised a large part of the dental classes – in come cases up to half the students. Classes were held three days a week, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, allowing the women to remain in their previous positions while studying, in order to provide a basic income. Forty percent today work in private clinics, where wages can be up to 75 percent higher than the minimum wage. The other 60 percent are at health fund clinics, with wages up to 21 percent greater than minimum wage.

Kedem says that an important understanding from her research that can be applied broadly with immigrant groups to Israel is that even among groups that “had led an ascetic lifestyle in the past [or] who had minimal expectations of themselves…may, in a new, different and challenging environment, develop motivation to create a significant change in their lifestyle. Despite difficulties facing the immigrants, when they are motivated to create a change…they will muster all the energy hidden in them to succeed.”

Kedem ends by quoting a passage from the Jewish text “Ethics of our Fathers” as the source for the underlying strength of so many new immigrants to Israel. “There is no man who does not have his day and there is no thing that does not have its place.” (Pirkei Avot 4, Nezikin, Masechet Avot, Mishnah 3.)

We will have a profile of one of the new graduates in an upcoming issue.

There is a profile of a 2012 graduate Yael Hangshing here.

You can download Dr. Efrat Kedem’s full research paper by clicking the link below:

Is motivation essential? (Dr. Efrat Kedem)