For the first time in 20 years, electronics and information export last year dropped by 12%, Israel Association of Electronics and Information Industries Chairman Ami Erel said on Wednesday.
Some 20% of startups, between 500 to 600, closed in 2001.
The data was released ahead of the association's annual meeting to be held in Tel Aviv today. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, Bank of Israel Governor David Klein, and Manufacturers Association of Israel President Oded Tyrah are to attend the meeting.
Total hi-tech sales, including sales to the local market and overseas, in 2001 dropped to $14.25 billion, 8% short of 2000.
Erel said that, nonetheless, hi-tech export in 2001 was 22% higher than in 1999.
Hi-tech export in 2001 came to $11 billion, Erel said. Communications equipment export decreased by 18%. Export of electronic equipment components shrunk by 20%. Export of manufacturing equipment slid by 10%. Total export to the civilian market, which comprises 89% of hi-tech export, dropped by 16%.
Erel said that staff directly employed in the electronics and information industries shrunk by 5,000 people in 2001, and today totals 61,000. He added that despite this drop there is still strong demand for experienced professional workers, especially electronic engineers.