Construction workers from Ukraine will soon be winging their way to Israel to help build homes here. Officials of the Housing Ministry on Monday signed an agreement with the Ukrainian government to supply as many as 15,000 workers due in the next 12 months.
Israel has been suffering from a major shortage of construction workers, which many officials believe has been hampering government plans to expand affordable housing projects. The gap has been filled until now by thousands of Palestinian Authority construction workers, and plans had been drawn up to bring in tens of thousands over the next year. However, numerous MKs and ministers have repeatedly postponed finalization of those projects, claiming that Palestinians are a security risk and that they cannot be relied upon for steady work due to closures in the wake of terror attacks, such as the closure that was imposed last week after the attack on Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.
Israel has been negotiating with various governments, especially China, for the supply of construction workers, but the agreement with Ukraine is the largest with any European country. Currently, there are 4,000 workers from Europe laboring on Israeli projects, the result of bilateral agreements with other European countries.
Among the reasons for Ukraine’s willingness to sign the agreement is the high unemployment – at a rate of 13 percent – in the country. In the construction trade, unemployment has been as high as 40 percent over the past several years.
Roni Brik, head of the Israeli Builders Association, praised the deal, saying that it would significantly relieve the pressure on builders to find qualified manpower. “This agreement will also advance government plans to approve yet more deals in which professional construction workers are brought to Israel,” Brik added.