After years of fruitless negotiations, an Israeli government delegation today signed a final agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Trade and the Chinese association of contractors for bringing thousands of Chinese construction workers to Israel, the Ministry of Construction and Housing announced today. The official ceremony is scheduled for late February.
The agreement paves the way to bring professional construction workers to Israel from China. As of now, there is a new quota of 20,000, with 6,000 slated to arrive in Israeli in the first six months of 2017.
In contrast to the agreements signed with Eastern European countries, the agreement with the Chinese government stipulates that the Chinese authorities will be responsible for selecting the workers sent to Israel through special companies established for this purpose. In Eastern Europe, Israeli representatives from both the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Association of Builders and Contractors have been responsible for this.
Various bilateral agreements were promoted in recent years following the 2011 government decision that the supervised and controlled employment of workers would facilitate the preservation of their rights. Parties familiar with the question explained that the reason for insisting on a bilateral agreement was to eliminate mediation fees and human trafficking.
At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the Israeli government asserted years ago that the number of foreign construction workers should be reduced, and that the training of Israelis for this purpose should be emphasized. The government decision in the matter also stipulated a gradual reduction in the number of permits for foreign workers. Nevertheless, this decision has been suspended a number of times in recent years when it was decided to increase the number of foreign workers coming to Israel, among other things due to claims that Israelis are unwilling to work in construction. Arguments on the issue are still taking place, with parties in the real estate sector continuing to assert that Israelis are unwilling to do this kind of work, while other parties say there is, and never has been, a sufficient program of incentives or an adequate program for training Israelis to work in this sector.
"After more than 18 months of effort, I am glad that our representatives signed an agreement today to bring thousands of Chinese workers as a catalyst for a solution to the housing crisis," Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon said today in his comment on the agreement.
Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant said, "The Israeli housing market has suffered from a shortage of manpower, slowness, and the high cost of resources in recent years. The agreement with China will bring innovative technologies and expert personnel, in line with the vision and action we have been leading for the past two years at the Ministry of Construction and Housing."
Commenting on the agreement, Ministry of the Interior and Development of the Negev and the Galilee Aryeh Deri said, "We have been negotiating with the Chinese government for a long time. Signing this agreement is a big step forward for the entire construction industry, and will help supervise and control the employment of construction workers from China. Above all, the dismal phenomenon of unreasonable mediation fees paid by those coming to Israel to work has been stopped."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 4, 2017
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