After months of discussions and years of promises, an Israel-China bilateral agreement has been officially signed. One result is that thousands of Chinese construction workers can now come to work in Israel.
In recent months, Ministry of Finance Housing Committee chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki negotiated the completion of the agreement with the Chinese government. Today, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to China, which included Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen, the official agreement was signed. Under the agreement, 6,000 construction workers from China will come to Israel in the first stage during the first six months of the agreement. Thousands more will follow later, bringing the total to 20,000 workers.
Various bilateral agreements have been promoted in recent years, following the government decision taken in 2011, which stated that employment of workers under control and supervision would make it possible to preserve their rights. This decision stated that workers would be brought to Israel only in the framework of a bilateral agreement that could eliminate the mediation fees and human trafficking that had previously prevailed in this area, both in Israel and overseas.
Because of this decision, no new visas were issued for construction workers from China until the agreement was signed. Meanwhile, demand from Israeli contractors for the few Chinese workers remaining in Israel has increased, and the price of employing them has risen accordingly.
The real estate sector now hopes that following the signing of the agreement, the number of Chinese workers on projects will increase. Both the contractors and the Ministry of Finance and its housing committee agree that these workers can help increase the construction industry's output and reduce prices.
"After efforts that continued for over 18 months, the agreement was signed today. This is a shot in the arm for a solution to the housing crisis," Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon said.
Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen added, "The signing of the agreement today is another step towards the solution of the housing crisis. Today, Israel is capable of building 40,000 housing units a year. Our target is to reach 60,000 housing units a year."
Minister of Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri commented, "We have been negotiating with the Chinese government for a long time. Signing the agreement is a significant step for the construction industry, and will help in the supervision of employment of construction workers from China. The era of charging those coming to Israel to work unreasonable mediation fees is over."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on March 20, 2017
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