In an effort to increase the number of housing starts, the Israeli cabinet has approved the expansion of quotas for foreign construction workers to 15,000 by July 2019.
From that date, the number of foreign construction workers will be gradually reduced to 8,000 by July 2020, and 5,000 by July 2021. From then on, 2,000 foreign construction workers will be permitted to work in the country.
The expanded work force also promises more efficiency. Data shows that the foreign workers can do the same work as Palestinian construction workers in as little as half the time. For example, a Chinese labor crew reportedly can complete a three-story structure in one month, while their Palestinian counterparts are still in the middle of the second story. That translates into a savings for builders of 50,000 shekels per apartment, and a 5-7 percent reduction in the cost of apartments.
Currently there are about 30,000 Palestinians in construction work in Israel, the highest number since the mid-1990s, before the “Second Intifada” in which terrorist acts committed by Arab workers prompted the government to impose stricter quotas.
The July 2011 cabinet decision allowed for 8,000 foreign construction workers at any given moment. The government never reached the 8,000 target, mainly because no bilateral agreements have been signed with some of the countries that would provide the workers. Sources estimate that there are currently 5,000 foreign construction workers in Israel.