The message that a young African receives from his acquaintances in Israel is
that it is possible to earn $800 to $1,500 a month ($3-$7 per hour).
monthly expenses are $400, so within a few months it is possible to repay the
$3,000 he owes the Beduin who smuggled him from Cairo to Israel.
the migrants even receive tips on how to avoid clashes with the Sinai Beduin to
avoid overpaying, how to register with the Jews after crossing the border and
how to get on a bus that will take them to Tel Aviv, where there is a city of
Africans with an entertainment center.
There is work, mainly as cleaners.
It is possible to get a regular job with a salary of $1,000 a month for a 10-
hour day through an agency, or try your luck on the street for a higher daily
wage. Life in Israel is fairly easy, and there is plenty of food. In the
worst-case scenario, you will be deported back home with a bonus of a few
Since the economic conditions in Sudan and Eritrea are
dire, it is not possible to prevent the entry of 1,000 to 2,000 Africans a month
unless they are cut off from the Israeli job market. This is part of a global
phenomenon, and every country that does not allow the entry of illegal
immigrants has learned that there is only one way to deal with the problem:
build camps with full services for migrants without work permits, massive
enforcement on employers to prevent the hiring of migrants and agreement to
deport migrants back to their countries of origin, together with agreements with
the foreign governments on penalties.
The measures should be precisely in
this order. There is no point in enforcement on employers if there are no camps
with services for migrants. Building a border fence is welcome, but it can be
overcome with money.
There is also the sea, the land route from Jordan,
tunnels, bridges and planes that carry tourists who remain here. The government
long ago approved these measures, but it has not implemented them because of
their high cost: NIS 10,000 per month per migrant in a camp. On the other hand,
delaying action causes great socioeconomic damage to Israel’s poor.
true for all foreigners The entry of low-skilled foreign workers from poor
countries directly harms the jobs and salaries of Israelis. This is true of all
foreigners: Africans, Chinese, Russians, Romanians, Turks, Thais and
Palestinians, with or without work visas. They compete in a fairly free labor
market, with limited enforcement of the minimum wage and labor laws.
the unskilled labor market, 500,000 Israelis are competing against 280,000
non-Israelis for low-level wages as cleaners, farm workers, construction workers
and other service providers. The more job seekers who enter this market, the
lower salaries fall. The more workers with lower alternative incomes (incomes
from their country of origin or welfare services), everyone’s bargaining power
declines and salaries fall. The massive entry of foreign workers is a key factor
in Israel’s widening economic gaps and why the salaries of the working poor have
not risen in real terms for 30 years.
Removing the non-Israelis,
especially the Africans, from the Israeli labor market will make it possible to
deal with the deepening poverty and social harm caused by their residence in
Israel’s main cities and their inclusion in the labor market. It must be made
obvious that we will not grant citizenship to migrant laborers; they are
ostensibly here temporarily, their employment harms the economy because it
creates businesses and services based on cheap labor, it prevents the adopting
of advanced technologies and then makes it hard to change.
To promote the
employment of low-educated and low-skilled Israelis, the employment of
non-Israelis must be minimized. Job training, help in hiring, the retraining of
Israelis and the introduction of more automation are all necessary for Israeli
workers to join the labor market at high salaries commensurate with their
productivity. Israeli governments have agreed to this over the past decade, but
they have done nothing.
Zvi Eckstein is the dean of the School of
Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and a former deputy governor
of the Bank of Israel.