Israel Plans To Import 92,000 Foreign Workers To Address Labor Shortage

Seventy per cent of the approved quota is allocated specifically for agricultural labourers. The agricultural sector in Israel has been struggling with substantial production and manpower deficits. Before October 7, approximately 29,900 foreign workers, predominantly from Thailand, were employed in farms, orchards, greenhouses, and packing plants across the country.

In a move to mitigate a significant labour shortage, Israel has authorized the import of 92,000 foreign workers to fill positions in agriculture, industry, hotels, and restaurants, according to an announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday. Notably, this marks the first instance of Israel approving foreign workers for the restaurant sector.

Agricultural Sector Takes Priority

Seventy per cent of the approved quota is allocated specifically for agricultural labourers. The agricultural sector in Israel has been struggling with substantial production and manpower deficits. Before October 7, approximately 29,900 foreign workers, predominantly from Thailand, were employed in farms, orchards, greenhouses, and packing plants across the country.

The shortage has been exacerbated by the mobilization of Israeli workers for military reserve duty and the ban on Palestinian labourers due to security concerns. Many agricultural areas, particularly those within two kilometres of the Lebanese border, have become inaccessible for farmers due to ongoing security threats.

Industry Challenges and Solutions

Asaf Keret, CEO of Beresheet, a fruit-packing enterprise run by several kibbutzim in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights, highlighted the operational difficulties faced by the agricultural sector. “Despite the challenges of the war, the packing house works around the clock to provide fresh Israeli produce continuously, while adhering to the directives of the Home Front Command,” said Keret.

During a tour with a delegation of fruit growers and agricultural officials, Keret called for additional government support, including grants for planting and increased labor quotas. “The fruit growers are at the peak of the picking season, facing threats from Hezbollah. We are committed to marketing the produce to the residents of Israel thanks to our dedicated farmers and workers,” Keret added.

Broadening the Workforce

The remaining foreign workers will be distributed across the industrial and hospitality sectors, with 2,000 designated for the restaurant industry for the first time. This diversification aims to stabilize the workforce across various sectors impacted by the labour shortage.

Security Concerns and International Relations

Since October 7, Hezbollah rocket attacks and drone strikes have resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians and 15 soldiers in northern Israel. The Iran-backed group has vowed to continue its assaults to deter residents from returning to their homes.

Israeli officials have been advocating for the disarmament and removal of Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon, in line with UN Security Council resolution 1701, which was established to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

The introduction of foreign workers is a strategic response to the ongoing labour crisis, ensuring that critical sectors continue to function and support the nation’s economy amidst security challenges.