A shortage of foreign laborers in Israeli construction and agriculture looms as a major threat to the economy, according to an article in the financial daily Globes.
Contractors are struggling with many problems: Not enough skilled labor; not enough engineers; not enough profit.
But the most serious problem is that there’s not enough foreign labor, according to Ortam Sahar Engineering CEO Amir Nachum. He told Globes that the only way to lower housing prices is to import Chinese workers, rather than Bulgarians.
“The government threw out almost all the foreign workers in the construction industry, and only 2,700 skilled workers remain,” says Nachum. “Even the Bulgarians brought in are not enough. Only a few hundred came, and many of them are unsuitable. The Israel Builders Association tried to bring workers and establish a final sorting and testing site, but the Bulgarians didn’t really want to come, and they did not come en masse. We reiterate that we need to bring Chinese; they are skilled workers, and if they come, construction time will be shortened, which will affect housing prices.”
How do contractors cope with these financial difficulties?
“The big contractors aren’t building speculative construction for inventory. If they start a project, it’s only after most of it has already been sold. They do a lot of on-site marketing. Many apartments in projects at the foundation and skeleton level have already been sold. This is because of the financing terms by the lender bank and the contractors’ caution. They’re not taking risks.”
Nachum envisages some ground-shaking changes in the construction sector: “A sector which is picking up is National Outline Plan 38 (earthquake retrofitting), especially the second amendment, which permits demolition and rebuilding. A great many contractors and developers are headed in this direction. We’re getting a lot of inquiries in this area.”