By Amit Acco, Partner |

In the aftermath of the recent conflict, thousands of Thai workers, predominantly employed in agriculture, have reentered Israel through alternative routes. This influx comes as a response to the severe shortage of labor in the agricultural sector since the outbreak of the war. Approximately 10,000 Thai workers had left Israel since October 7, prompting concerns about rising prices and shortages in agricultural produce.

The Challenge of Agricultural Labor Shortages

The significant shortage of workers in Israeli agriculture, exacerbated by the recent conflict, poses a complex challenge. Despite this, over the past few months, around 5,000 foreign agricultural workers, mainly from Thailand, have entered Israel. Most of them chose alternative routes different from the ones taken by Thai agricultural workers before October 7.

Departures and Returns

More than 10,000 Thai workers, primarily engaged in agricultural activities, had left Israel since the onset of the conflict, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Stakeholders in the agriculture sector argue that the actual number of departing Thai workers may be even higher.

Simultaneously, Palestinian workers have faced restrictions on entering Israel since the beginning of the conflict. With an estimated 20,000 Palestinian workers in the agriculture sector before the conflict, their absence has already begun to manifest in increased prices and shortages of specific agricultural products.

Thailand’s Reluctance and Private Initiatives

Currently, the Thai government is unwilling to grant its citizens work permits for employment in Israel. To circumvent this, private human resources agencies are facilitating the entry of Thai workers through third countries. In the last month, hundreds of Thai agricultural workers entered Israel via the Philippines, and additional workers arrived through European countries like Georgia.

Private Pathways

Some of the recently arrived workers had previously held work permits, allowing them to reenter without requiring renewed approvals. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Population Authority have introduced a private pathway that enables the entry of foreign workers into Israel without direct government involvement. In its initial stage, 5,000 slots have been approved under this private pathway.

KTA Comments

As Israel grapples with the challenges posed by a shortage of agricultural labor, the return of Thai workers through alternative channels raises questions about the effectiveness of current immigration policies. The private initiatives and the newly established pathways offer temporary relief but underscore the need for comprehensive solutions to address the ongoing labor crisis in the agricultural sector. Continued monitoring and adjustments in policy may be necessary to ensure the stability of the agricultural workforce and mitigate potential impacts on prices and produce availability.