Restaurant-Worker Shortage Prompts Visas for Filipinos

An African laborer rides a bike carrying fabric along a main street in South Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The recent implementation of laws imposing economic stringencies on African workers in Israel has made it too expensive for restaurants to hire those workers – for jobs Israelis are unwilling to take at the salaries offered, restaurateurs claim. After numerous protests, the Economy Ministry has offered a solution – importing some 2,000 workers from the Philippines to work at those restaurant jobs.

Economy Minister Eli Cohen said that the importation of Filipino workers to fill those jobs “will provide a response to the situation where many businesses are employing workers illegally, and ensure that there are legal foreign workers available to fill jobs. This is an important step that will ease the shortage of workers in this industry, and a significant economic achievement.”

In recent months, the government has acted to encourage illegal migrant workers to return to their countries of origin. Transfers of money by illegal workers out of Israel have been halted, and employers are now required to set aside 36 percent of workers’ salaries in a special account, which workers will get only when they leave the country. Twenty percent of that money is deducted from workers’ salaries, and the rest is paid by the employer, a penalty for employing illegals. The payment has made employing African workers too expensive, and as a result many restaurants are short-staffed.

At the beginning of 2018 the government authorized the entry of 1,500 Palestinian Authority Arabs for work in the restaurant industry, but restaurateurs have complained that this is not enough, and that many jobs have gone unfilled.