To help solve its twin problem of a chronic manpower shortage and a lack of housing, Israel has laid the foundation for a deal with China to import some 6,000 Chinese construction workers to help build homes in the next six months.
Agreeing the draft deal in Beijing on 4 January, Israeli government officials said the move would provide a "boost" to solve the housing crisis, while introducing new technology and skills.
"The Chinese workers will reduce the construction time, and bring down prices for the benefit of the public," said Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant, reports The Jerusalem Post.
For 18 months parties have been negotiating the deal, which is hoped to provide a "boost" to solve the housing crisis, said Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Formal ratification is expected at the end of February in Jerusalem, he added.
The Chinese workers will reduce the construction time, and bring down prices for the benefit of the public– Yoav Galant, Housing and Construction Minister
The move is part of a broader concerted effort on Israel’s part to draft in foreign help to get homes built. In November Israel gave the green light for five Chinese construction giants, and one from Portugal, to spend the next five years building homes on Israeli soil.
The Israeli delegation to China was headed by the Finance Ministry’s housing chief, Avigdor Yitzhaki, and the Construction and Housing Ministry’s director-general, Asher Armoni. They held talks with representatives of China’s Ministry of Commerce, according to Jerusalem Post.
Avoiding brokerage fees and preventing human trafficking were other goals of the Chinese manpower deal, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
In September 2015 the cabinet approved a plan to bring in 20,000 Chinese workers.
According to the Post, there were an estimated 235,000 construction workers in the country last year, of which an estimated 42,000 were Palestinians, 3,500 from China, 2,800 from Moldavia, 1,000 from Bulgaria, and a smattering from Romania.
In June, Israel signed an agreement with Ukraine as well, with an expected 1,000 Ukrainian construction workers expected to arrive this year.
Image: Bricklayer builds decorative wall at an Israeli development (Rafael Ben-ari/Dreamstime.com)