Israel-China deal paves way for thousands of Chinese construction workers in Israel

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says the deal will provide a “boost” to solve the housing crisis.

January 4, 2017 14:18
1 minute read.

Flag of China. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The Chinese are coming … to build Israeli homes.

Israel and China agreed on the wording of an agreement in Beijing on Wednesday that will pave the way for some 6,000 Chinese construction workers to come and work in Israel within six months.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said the accord, which will be formally signed at the end of February in Jerusalem, was negotiated for the last 18 months and will provide a “boost” to solve the housing crisis.

Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant said that the housing market in Israel has suffered over the last few years because of a lack of manpower.

This agreement will bring new technology and a skilled workforce, he said.

“The Chinese workers will reduce the construction time, and bring down prices for the benefit of the public,” Galant said.

The Israeli delegation to China was headed by the Finance Ministry’s housing chief, Avigdor Yitzhaki, and the Construction and Housing Ministry’s director-general, Asher Armoni. They held talks with representatives of China’s Ministry of Commerce.

Until the final agreement is signed by the end of February, both sides will prepare the ground for the immediate implementation of the accord.

The Finance Ministry issued a statement saying that one of the main goals of the agreement was to eliminate brokerage fees and the possibility of human trafficking. The agreement is designed to ensure supervision of the entire process from the time the workers depart China, until they leave Israel at the end of the term of their employment.

In September 2015 the cabinet approved a plan to bring in 20,000 Chinese workers.

Then Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, however, opposed the move at the time – concerned that the workers would be exploited by middlemen – because there was no formal agreement between the two countries on the matter. The agreement that will be signed at the end of February is designed to solve that problem.

There were an estimated 235,000 construction workers in the country in 2016, of which an estimated 42,000 were Palestinians, 3,500 from China, 2,800 from Moldavia, 1,000 from Bulgaria, and a smattering from Romania.

In June, Israel signed an agreement with Ukraine as well, with an expected 1,000 Ukrainian construction workers expected to arrive this year.

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