Israel Plans 65,000 Foreign Construction Workers Amid War

By Aryeh Stern

Construction of new buildings in Yerushalayim. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Around 50 Indian construction workers arrived in Israel last week, signaling the beginning of a plan to bring in at least 65,000 foreign construction workers. The construction industry has been grappling with a severe labor shortage for over four months, a consequence of the halt in the entry of over 100,000 Palestinian construction workers into Israel. However, alongside ongoing recruitment efforts, various challenges are on the horizon.

Since the start of the war, approximately 20,000 foreign construction workers have been residing in Israel. A recent government decision permits an increase in their number by 45,000, with an additional 20,000 workers to be brought in “privately” through personnel agencies. The government aims to accomplish this within two to three months, an unprecedented endeavor for Israel, which has seen an increase of only about 15,000 foreign workers in its construction industry between 2013 and 2022.

India, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan are the primary focus for recruitment, with India expected to contribute the majority of workers. As of mid-February, the Ministry of Construction and Housing reported organizing 10,000 workers from these countries, with a goal of arranging an additional 20,000 by the end of March. The import of foreign construction workers is regulated by law through approved staffing agencies, with an influx of applications expected to expedite the process.

Amidst the logistical challenges of managing flights to Israel, concerns about housing arrangements for tens of thousands of foreign workers have surfaced. Israeli officials are contemplating provisional legislation allowing the construction of temporary housing, aiming to enhance labor productivity and potentially lower housing prices. The bill faces potential obstacles in finding suitable locations, obtaining approvals, and constructing the residences.

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