By Tsvi Kan-Tor & Amit Acco, Founding Partners |

Labor migration to Israel commenced in 1993 with the government’s approval of extensive recruitment of foreign workers for the agriculture and construction sectors. Up until the conclusion of 2012, the official recruitment of foreign workers in these sectors had undergone privatization, facilitated by recruitment agencies in both Israel and the workers’ countries of origin. These agencies imposed exorbitant fees on migrants seeking employment in Israel.

In response to the exploitative practices, the Israeli government took measures to address the situation by entering into bilateral work agreements with select countries that were typically the primary sources of migrant workers. Notably, agreements have been forged with Thailand for individuals employed in the agriculture sector, and with Bulgaria, Moldova, and Romania for those working in the construction sector.

The method established by the State of Israel as the most effective and fair for recruiting foreign workers in the construction industry involves bilateral work agreements. These agreements are implemented on the ground by accredited human resources agencies. They are signed between Israel and the worker’s country of origin, and, upon meeting specific conditions, the foreign worker is recruited by a human resources agency and placed in relevant projects.

This recruitment process, operational in Israel for several years, has proven successful both professionally (in terms of worker quality) and ethically/publicly. It regulates pre-arrival recruitment and selection procedures, as well as safeguards the rights of workers, including measures that prevent or at least minimize prohibited mediation fees. These fees often force foreign workers to resort to loans from the black market, contributing to corruption and, at times, human trafficking.

Read More About Regulation of Foreign Worker Recruitment through Bilateral Agreement

Current Foreign Employees Shortage in Construction, Agriculture and Industry (Blue Collar Employees) 

Since the outbreak of the war, around 80,000 Palestinian workers, along with 20,000 illegal immigrants and several thousand foreign workers, mainly from Moldova, have left Israel. This has left the industry with approximately 17,000 foreign workers and 20,000 Israeli Arabs, enabling the sector (especially construction sites) to operate at a low productivity rate of around 30%. This problem is exacerbated by the country’s slow response, having recruited only about a thousand new workers so far, with uncertainty about when the gaps will be filled. Similily, the Israeli agriculture, primarily situated in the central and southern regions, traditionally relies on thousands of Thai and Palestinian laborers. However, many Thais left Israel after the Hamas attack on October 7, and as it seems, Palestinians from Gaza will no longer enter to work in Israel, at least not in the near future.

Government Reform Suggestions For Bilateral Work Agreements

Israeli government examine options to remove barriers  and allow bringing in foreign workers from countries that does not have a bilateral work agreements, while staying committed to preventing the collection of agency fees, prioritizing the eligibility and rights of workers throughout the process.

The committee addressed practical issues related to the recruitment of foreign workers in the construction and agriculture sectors, aiming to address shortages resulting from the war. Specifically, the committee explored a framework in the construction industry that enables the recruitment of foreign workers without relying on bilateral work agreements.

According to these legislators, the Contractors Association is currently holds a monopoly for exclusive authority for screening workers abroad is therefore suggested that other competent parties could efficiently handle screenings to support the proposed framework, eliminating current monopolies.

Agriculture: In the realm of agriculture, a recent discussion highlighted the approval of an emergency plan aimed at bringing in 5,000 foreign workers, from countries not necessarily having a bilateral work agreements with Israel. This move was prompted by the shortage resulting from the departure of Thai workers and the absence of Palestinian workers. However, apprehension looms among some farmers regarding the prospect of hiring workers from unfamiliar countries. The committee emphasized the need to ensure that farmers actively utilize the approved plan, employing the emergency workers for the intended purpose.

Constructions: According to the Association it is imperative that the employees screening abroad will remain comprehensive and adaptable. Individuals who successfully pass these screenings should be eligible to work in Israel for any contractor in the building sector, irrespective of whether they are involved in constructing a residential building or a bridge in a shopping mall. The screening of the workers should result in getting a suitable match for the contractor, as any mismatch can result in harm to the worker who has relocated from their country and family. If the worker doesn’t align with the contractor’s needs, it is the association duty to address the issue promptly to avoid any negative consequences, including the possibility of sending the worker back.

The Various Conflicting Concerns About The Bilateral Work Agreements

Two weeks ago, some worker’s organization criticized the decision to bring in workers without bilateral work agreements. The organization emphasized that these agreements play a crucial role in protecting workers’ rights and conditions, including preventing high brokerage fees. Workers without such agreements often arrive in Israel burdened with significant debt, diminishing their bargaining power and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm at work.

The discussion centered on preventing the collection of illegal brokerage fees from individuals seeking employment in Israel. It highlighted the heightened risk of gathering prohibited funds when bringing in foreign workers outside of established bilateral agreements. Additionally, there were concerns about arriving workers seeking asylum or extending their stay illegally in Israel.

A collaborative team, comprising enforcement units such as the Population and Immigration Authority and the Ministry of Labor, was formed to investigate and mitigate certain issues. Their mandate is to analyze available information and historical data to identify and prevent these issues. The team recently submitted a list of high-risk countries to the Director General of the Population and Immigration Authority, advising against importing workers from these nations based on established criteria.

Kan-Tor & Acco Recommendations: Ethical Recruitment in The Building and Agricultural Sectors

Using advanced technological platforms enables the efficient and ethical recruitment of foreign workers for employment in Israel while preventing corruption, exploitation, and human trafficking in accordance with international ethical standards.

The cancellation of the requirement for bilateral work agreements by the State of Israel, prompted by the challenges posed by geopolitical conflicts, has led to concerns about the potential recruitment of lower-quality workers. This decision may compromise their rights and facilitate unethical practices by foreign intermediaries involved in the recruitment process.

However, there are viable alternatives. Today, technological platforms exist that offer faster, more professional, reliable, and ethical solutions, preserving the rights and well-being of foreign workers. By facilitating direct recruitment by Israeli employers without the need for intermediaries, these platforms streamline the process, eliminate mediation fees, and contribute significantly to preventing corruption.

Globally, there are platforms adhering to ethical recruitment standards outlined in the United Nations document detailing the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (Goal number 8). These platforms enable direct communication between foreign workers and Israeli employers, allowing the employer to assess the skills of the worker directly, present employment terms, answer questions, and expedite the recruitment process efficiently and cost-effectively, without mediation fees.

One of the leading global platform is operated in Israel by Relo360’s US Partner Joblio, whose specializing in ethical recruitment. The critical presence of such platforms ensures maximum transparency and accountability between both parties, motivating them to adhere to the highest standards throughout the recruitment process. Employers and workers alike recognize the consequences of non-compliance, fostering a relationship based on mutual trust and honesty.

It is imperative for the State of Israel to explore these possibilities and examine existing global solutions to address the challenges arising from the aftermath of conflicts and wars. Evaluating the effectiveness of ethical technological platforms can lead to sustainable and fair resolutions in the Israeli recruitment landscape.