France Trying to Woo Jews Back From Israel Amid Fears of Future Economic Lag
The French government is trying to lure talented French Jews now living in Israel back to France amid fears that the European country is losing future business leaders and skilled professionals, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption revealed that 6,961 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, double the number of 2013. More than 36% of those emigrants hold college degrees and 17% are in engineering.
According to the report, the Jewish exodus from France is depriving the country of young talent, as it continues to struggle with poor economic growth and unemployment rates in the double digits.
The report said that the attendance of French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron at a major tech conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, and his current visit to Israel in general, is focused on encouraging Jewish investors and innovators to return to France. He met with parents of high school students and courted Israeli investors, touting government measures his ministry plans to implement, such as tax incentives and streamlined labor tribunals.
“A lot of these people have energy, vitality. They want to create jobs, startups, and innovate here,” Macron told The Wall Street Journal. “They can innovate as well in France.”
Macron added that France is in need of a “cultural revolution” that can’t be secured with legislation. He told the publication, “In France we are largely based on status, which means that when you have a position, you respect the position. It means people are less keen on taking risks.”
French Jews relocating to Israel are largely seeking to escape the rise in antisemitic sentiment in France, but also seek to distance themselves from the inflexibility in France’s education and labor systems, according to the WSJ.
The top schools in France encourage graduates to take on careers as government or public employees protected by labor contracts that emigrants say discourage the risk-taking involved in launching businesses. Those who have relocated to Israel say taking a risk and failing is frowned upon in France, while in Israel, employers and investors view early failures as key learning experiences.
The French government is working to remove that stigma by implementing changes, such as “rebound” programs that teach the value of failure, and ordering France’s central bank to stop marking the records of entrepreneurs who went bankrupt, thus making it hard for them to receive future loans.
Israel largely subsidizes startups and the research-and-investment apparatus that fosters them. France is now following its example, setting aside $223.22 million in funding for local startups and incubators. In addition, Paris now exempts new entrepreneurs and their investors from paying taxes on up to 85% of their capital gains if they are business-owners for more than eight years.
French entrepreneurs who moved to Israel told the WSJ that their new home offers a welcoming environment they cannot find in France.
“I was asked to choose: ’Are you Jewish or French?’” said Mickael Bensadoun, who moved from France to Israel 15 years ago. He co-founded the Tel Aviv nonprofit Gvahim, which helps immigrants professionally integrate into the Israeli job market. 20% of those involved in the company’s startup accelerator are French.
Jeremie Brabet-Adonajlo, co-founder of the startup Pzartech, added that being Jewish in France “is like being part of a soccer team, and no one wants to pass you the ball.”