Israel sees record number of migrant workers over past five years

With the signing of several bilateral agreements, the ease by which foreign workers can travel to Israel has increased markedly.

November 7, 2017 17:35
1 minute read.
Thai workers collect freshly harvested fennel near Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israe

Thai workers collect freshly harvested fennel near Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israel. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)


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Between 2012 and 2016, a record 28,629 migrant workers came to Israel. To protect such workers from subcontractors who charged them high entry fees and were often not held accountable for ensuring their rights and safety, bilateral agreements with the workers’ home countries were established in 2012.

A study released on Tuesday looks at the impact of those agreements before and after their implementation.

The report, compiled by Dr. Nonna Kushnirovich of the Ruppin Academic Center and Prof. Rebecca Raijman of the University of Haifa, shows that 80% of migrants came from Thailand to work in the agricultural sector. The rest came from Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania to work primarily in the construction industry or as caregivers.

The 64-page report identifies the shift from employing workers from the Gaza Strip or the West Bank following the First Intifada in the early 1990s, to recruiting foreign workers today.

For nearly two decades, foreign workers relied on recruitment companies and subcontractors to facilitate their employment. Since the bilateral agreements were implemented, however, significant changes have been noted.

Since then, there has been a significant spike not only in the numbers of workers who come to Israel, but the amount of money it costs them to get here.

According to the report, before the agreements, the cost for an agricultural or construction worker to arrive to Israel from Thailand was $9,149.

Two years after the establishment of the agreements, in 2014, the cost dropped to $2,191. In 2016, it dropped to $2,043.

The agreements did not do much to improve wages, though, as wages have essentially remained stagnant.

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