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6,000 Workers from India to be Brought to Israel During April-May

In Nation, News, World
April 11, 2024

JERUSALEM:
More than 6,000 Indian workers will arrive in Israel during April and May to help the country’s construction sector meet a labour shortage following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

They will be will be brought to Israel on “air shuttle” following a joint decision by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), finance ministry and the construction and housing ministry on subsidising charter flights, a statement issued by the Israeli government late Wednesday said.

The construction industry of Israel employs workers in specific fields where there is a lack of Israeli workers.

The largest group of about 80,000 workers came from the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and another 17,000 from the Gaza Strip. But a huge majority of them had their work permit revoked after conflict started in October.

The statement said this is the “largest number of foreign workers arriving in Israel for the construction sector in a short time”.

“Thanks to the joint financing of the PMO, the finance ministry and the construction and housing ministry, it was agreed approximately one week ago on the arrival of over 6,000 workers from India during April and May on an ‘air shuttle’ following the subsidising of charter flights,” it said.

The statement was released after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting at the PMO here amid an acute shortage of workers that has stalled several projects, causing concerns of increasing cost of living and also friction between various government bodies and businesses.

The workers from India are being brought to Israel under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between to the countries.

On Tuesday last week, 64 construction workers from India arrived in Israel under the agreement. There will be a series of arrivals in the coming weeks, a total of 850 by mid-April.

A little over 900 construction workers have arrived from India during the last few months through the B2B route, involving human resources agencies in both countries.

Sources in the construction sector had said after three months, during which more than 20,000 workers from India and Sri Lanka were approved for jobs through screening tests conducted by the Israeli Contractors Association (ICA), only about 1,000 workers had arrived.

They had blamed “bureaucratic procedures”, including obtaining various permits, for the delay.

Most of the selected workers are said to have resigned from their jobs and waiting to receive a visa to work in Israel, the sources had claimed.

“The Israeli government has repeatedly reported its intention to speed up these procedures but has not done so,” a source claimed and added that all involved stakeholders in Israel are said to have proposed several plans in their discussions with the government to fast-track the process.

Last week, the ICA said: “The task assigned to us by the government was carried out at a record pace. It has been weeks since we completed three rounds of selection of workers in which professional approval was given to employ more than 20,000 workers, half of them in the government track and half in the business track.”

“We call on the government to act immediately to bring here the workers who have already (been) approved and to create a fast-track (process) for the approval and flight of the workers. The delay in the arrival of the workers from India and Sri Lanka hurts all concerned,” it had said.

Netanyahu during a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in December last year had discussed advancing the arrival of Indian workers to Israel.

Besides those from India and Sri Lanka, a group of about 7,000 workers have come from China and around 6,000 from Eastern Europe.

Israeli Minister of Economy Nir Barkat, during his trip to India in April last year had spoken to officials and his counterpart in Delhi, about hiring Indians in various sectors, including in the construction sector. The discussions had revolved around bringing in almost 1,60,000 people.

There are about 18,000 Indians working in Israel, mostly as caregivers. Most of them decided to stay back in Israel during the war because “they felt quite secure” and “also because the salaries are quite attractive”.

Israel and India also inked an agreement in May last year during then Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s visit to Delhi to allow 42,000 Indians to work in the Jewish state in fields of construction and nursing, a move that was then seen to help deal with the rising cost of living and assist thousands of families waiting for nursing care.

A statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry then had said 34,000 workers will be engaged in the construction sector and another 8,000 for nursing needs.

In the last six months, about 800 workers from India have also joined the agricultural sector in Israel.

The Government Press Office in a statement said, “Pursuant to a directive from the prime minister, intensive staff work — led by Prime Minister’s Office Director General Yossi Shelly — was carried out in order to facilitate a large increase in the quantity of foreign workers in Israel, lower the cost of living and significantly reduce the bureaucracy and friction between it and the business sector while improving supervision and oversight of the employment of foreign workers and safeguarding of their rights.”

Following discussions, Netanyahu instructed that a decision on the issue be submitted to the government next week.

This decision will determine the scope of foreign workers in Israel and an adjustment mechanism in case of severe unemployment in the economy that would affect the employment of Israelis, the statement said.

“It was also determined that the government will authorise a committee of director generals, chaired by the PMO director general to allocate the quota between the various branches of the economy according to the need raised by government ministries from economic officials,” it said, amid gaining chorus from various sectors of the economy regarding shortage of workers.

The minister of finance, interior, welfare and social affairs, and construction and housing, the cabinet secretary and PMO officials were among those who attended in the discussions

Officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, economy, interior, justice, transportation, labour, and housing and construction, the National Economic Council and the Agriculture and Population and Immigration Authority also participated.