By Amit Acco, Partner |

The Haifa Regional Court recently examined the rights of foreign workers  who came to work in Israel in the capacity of foreign workers. The court ruled that, as a rule, a foreign worker is not a resident of Israel and, therefore, is not entitled to a senior citizen’s pension from the Israeli National Insurance Institute.

The group of workers in question arrived in Israel from Romania to work as caregivers. Most of these workers were of an advanced age when they arrived in Israel and were issued a foreign worker’s residence permit. Such B-1 work visas are typically granted for a fixed period of five years, but sometimes the period is extended, depending on the patients’ request.

At the end of their period of employment, the foreign workers returned to Romania, but they demanded from the National Insurance Institute in Israel that they be paid an old-age pension in Romania. This payment was to be for the rest of their lives and for their survivors after them, in return for their work in Israel.

In 2013, Israel and Romania signed a treaty on social security, which regulated the export of allowances from Israel to Romania and back, in accordance with the eligibility conditions of the legislation applicable in each country.

The case raises several important legal and moral questions. First, there is the issue of whether foreign workers who have lived and worked in Israel for many years should be entitled to a pension from the National Insurance Institute, even if they are not Israeli citizens. On the one hand, foreign workers contribute to the Israeli economy, pay taxes, and often provide essential services, such as caregiving, that would otherwise be unavailable. On the other hand, granting such benefits to non-citizens could create a moral hazard and encourage further illegal immigration.

Second, there is the issue of how to balance the need for social welfare benefits with the need to respect the rule of law. Foreign workers are often vulnerable to exploitation, and they may not have the resources or the knowledge to fight for their rights. At the same time, the state has an obligation to uphold its laws and regulations, including those governing immigration and social welfare benefits.

Finally, there is the issue of international cooperation and the role of treaties in regulating social security benefits. The 2013 treaty between Israel and Romania is an example of how countries can work together to address the needs of their citizens who live and work abroad. However, such treaties must be carefully crafted to balance the interests of all parties and to avoid creating unintended consequences.

In conclusion, the case of the foreign workers from Romania raises important legal and moral questions about the rights of non-citizens to social welfare benefits in Israel. While there is a need to provide for the vulnerable and to respect the contributions of foreign workers, these goals must be balanced against the need to uphold the rule of law and to avoid creating incentives for illegal immigration. International cooperation, through treaties and other mechanisms, can play an important role in addressing these complex issues.