Why are Indian Labourers going to Israel for Work?

The construction industry in Israel has witnessed an increase in Indian labourers being recruited. But why?

Why are Indian Labourers going to Israel for Work f

"I can’t think of anything but the better life"

Indian labourers are being recruited by construction companies in Israel as more high-rises and new houses are needed.

Since Hamas’ attack on October 7, 2023, building work has come to an almost complete halt.

The industry relied on nearly 80,000 Palestinian workers. However, they are now barred from entering Israeli territory.

As a result, partially completed apartment blocks are a common sight and yellow tower cranes are motionless.

According to the financial ministry, the expulsion of Palestinian construction workers is costing £656 million a month and could eventually lead to a 3% GDP loss.

But an unexpected solution has come to the fore – recruiting Indian labourers.

Rajat Kumar has a degree but for six years, he has been unable to get any other job except construction, earning a salary he described as “peanuts”.

He said: “Right now I earn around 15,000 rupees (£150) a month.”

The prospect of travelling abroad to a country engulfed in conflict was a small price to pay for regular, well-paid work.

The job he has applied for in Israel would pay Rs. 138,000 (£1,300) a month, with accommodation provided.

Rajat said: “When I compare it with what I earn here, I can’t think of anything but the better life I and my family will have.”

A bilateral labour agreement was signed between Israel and India in May 2023.

During a visit to India earlier in February 2024, Israel’s Transportation Minister Miri Regev said Israel would be “lessening its dependence on Palestinian workers” by replacing them with skilled foreign workers.

With India suffering a jobs shortage, desperation for work in Israel has been huge, despite concerns over travelling to a conflict zone.

Many have attended recruitment drives across northern India.

At one in Uttar Pradesh, over 15,000 people handed in applications to work as plumbers, masons, electricians, carpenters and plasterers on Israeli construction sites.

Some who travelled hundreds of miles, and waited for upwards of eight hours, were turned away.

Kunal Silku, director of training and employment for the Uttar Pradesh government, said the state had received a direct request from Israeli authorities who wanted to recruit 10,000 labourers.

He said Israelis had specified they were primarily looking for steelworkers, tilers, plasterers and carpenters.

He said: “Seven thousand and one hundred workers went through the screening and 500 have been selected so far.

“We are hoping to conduct more recruitment drives in the future.”

Israel-India relations were not always friendly; the two countries only formally established relations in 1992.

But today, India is a major Israeli arms recipient, and the BJP sees the Jewish state as an ideological ally.

Shay Pauzner, the deputy director general and spokesperson for the Israel Builders Association trade union, said:

“We would be more than happy to have the Palestinians back, but it’s not our decision to make, and the situation is critical.

“Until that action is taken we need foreign workers.”

Approximately 60,000 foreign workers are expected to enter the Israeli construction industry over the next few months.

Most will be from India but Israel has similar agreements with Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.

However, the recruitment drive has been met with some resistance by several Indian trade bodies.

In November 2023, 10 trade unions said that any attempt by the government to “export” Indian workers would show “the manner in which it has dehumanised and commodified Indian workers”.

The statement added: “Such a step will amount to complicity on India’s part with Israel’s ongoing genocidal war against Palestinians.”

India’s transport workers union also entered the debate, saying thousands of workers would refuse to load or unload weapons bound for Israel “in solidarity with Palestine”.

Although better than standards in the Gulf, Israel’s building industry has a poor safety record.

One rights group recently reported the number of people killed on Israeli construction sites is 2.5 times greater than that of the EU for every 100,000 workers.

Nevertheless, recruitment remains largely unaffected and recently, the first Indian labourers have begun arriving.

Pauzner estimated that 400 people had already come to Israel after passing skills and qualifications checks.

Vikas Dhanda had applied for a plumbing job in Israel.

Doing the same work in India earned him Rs. 17,000 (£170) a month.

After his wife’s death in 2019, he became the sole parent to his daughter and said he was determined to get the job to pay for her education.

He said: “I want to provide her with a good life and education.

“What does it matter what kind of situation we will be sent to when the situation here is already terrible.

“We do not have many options. This job will pay 10 times more money and that puts every other concern aside.”

Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

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