Israel and China appear to be interested in “building” closer relations.
Chinese construction workers build high-rise buildings 50% faster than Israelis, Palestinians or others, Israel’s Finance Ministry said.
Because of this, Israel plans to bring in 20,000 Chinese construction workers to help build new apartments as part of efforts to lower housing costs, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, reported AFP.
Chinese workers are currently brought into Israel under private contracts between Israeli and Chinese companies, the French news agency said.
However, the lack of a formal agreement between the two countries on working conditions for immigrant workers has led Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to oppose the plan.
Despite this, Israel’s cabinet has already approved the plan.
The finance ministry said that even without an agreement it would create a plan to protect the workers’ rights.
“In my view, this is a necessary and important step to lower housing prices,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s construction sector employs 216,000 workers, including 37,000 Palestinians and 6,000 foreigners, with some 3,700 Chinese, reported AFP.
But there are still political sensitivities to take into account. In June, China said it wouldn’t let its citizens work on projects in the occupied West Bank.
Workers’ rights groups in Israel also attacked Sunday’s plan, which they said would take away jobs from working-class Israelis and submit Chinese workers to exploitative conditions which amounted to indentured labor, according to the Financial Times.