Expert: Hospitality, Health Industry Would Suffer Without Migrant Workers

Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While the government, along with residents of south Tel Aviv and many other neighborhoods where they have settled are trying to figure out ways to encourage illegal African migrant workers to leave Israel, many Israelis will actually be sorry to see them go, according to Shai Berman, the head of the Israel Restauranteurs Organization. “If we want more tourists, we need people to work in the tourism profession at all times – on holidays and weekends, as well. I don’t know many Israelis who are willing to work in the hospitality industry.”

Many of the illegal migrant workers in Israel have found work in that industry, providing manpower for restaurants and hotels as kitchen workers, dishwashers, cleaning staff, and other manual jobs that Israelis generally eschew. Crackdowns on migrants in the past have resulted in a lack of manpower in many restaurants and hotels, said Berman. “Some establishments have been forced to cut hours or cut back on operations, because they cannot get kitchen workers or dishwashers. If they do not want Sudanese or Eritreans here, the state should bring in workers from other places for the hospitality industry. There are also many state institutions who rely on these people, and they are needed there as well.”

Also likely to suffer from a lack of foreign workers are nursing homes, geriatric facilities, and the like, Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said in a recent visit to an old-age home in Ness Ziona. According to Rabbi Litzman, there are already 6,000 unfilled jobs at these facilities, and he would like to see African migrants take those jobs.

“The crisis at old-age homes has led them to begin hiring the migrants,” he said on the visit. “It’s not the best solution, but I do understand their position. We cannot leave the elderly in these institutions without caretakers. Until and unless another solution is found, I will oppose deporting these migrants. The solution would be to grant nursing homes the same legal status as companies that employ migrant workers, and they would be able to import legal workers.” Until then, he said, the African migrants could do the jobs, he added.