Israeli government policies towards foreign workers: history and impact Since the 1967 war, there was a growing number of foreign workers employed by Israeli employers. First the Palestinian cheap labors, then came the migration workers from eastern and south-east Asia, as well as those from north Africa and some European countries. The relatively higher salary and the sufficient job vacancies attracted foreign workers to this land and became a vulnerable group in the Israeli society. In this procession, the government played a crucial role in recruiting foreign workers as well as in rejecting the growing quotas petitioned by domestic employers who are seeking for cheap labors. This article aims to give a review of Israeli government policies towards foreign workers according to the chronic order, in order to have a clear understanding of the evolution and changing attitudes of government on this issue, and also the deep impacts on the foreign labor market as well as foreign workers themselves in Israel. History of the government policies towards foreign workers
After the establishment of the State of Israel in1948, there was a mass legislation. There are two of the laws worthy of attention: The Law of Entry (1952) and Law of Return (1950). These two laws stipulated the citizenship of Jewish people in Israel, giving an privilege to those Jewish refugees to settle in Israel, but they failed to provide a legal statues for those who are non-Jews that temporarily stayed, or in our case, worked in Israel. This resulted in a dilemma for the foreign workers. On the one hand, they are temporary residence in Israel, Engaging in low status jobs and paying taxes to the country; on the other hand, they can’t enjoy the equal rights as Israeli citizens. Their rights and statues are largely controlled by the Ministries of Labor and the Inferior, who usually treat foreign workers in a injustice way. Besides these two laws, the Employment Service Law legislated in 1959 stipulates that “ The Employment Service shall be under the general supervisions of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs”1, and also, foreign workers must be mediated by private employment agencies. The government gives out the responsibility to private agencies to allocate the foreign workers in Israel, which increases the instability of the conditions of foreign workers, and the discriminative attitudes of the supervision ministries again can’t provide sufficient protections to foreign workers. Period2: 1967----1992
During these two decades, the government policies mainly oriented upon Palestinian workers. As a consequence of the Six-Day War, large numbers of Palestinian workers flew into the labor market of Israel, engaged in low status jobs such as construction and agriculture. This is the first time after the establishment of the state that a mass and planned flow of foreign workers into Israel, and more ironically, they were there unfriendly neighbors. From 1967 to 1969, during which there was no official actions towards the Palestinian workers, there were small number of illegal workers crossing the border to get jobs in Israel. Under this circumstance, the government took step dealing with the impact of these cheap labors. In the year of 1969, Israel government began to issue permits to Palestinian workers, but under harsh standards. The reason why the government finally decided to release the restrictions towards Palestinian workers mainly lies in two aspects. First, during 1960s, Israeli economy went through a great expansion, from infrastructures to agriculture. There was an urgent need of labors in construction and agriculture section. Compared with Israeli domestic workers, Palestinian workers were cheaper and willing to engage in the so called low statues jobs, which made them more competitive in the labor market, employers preferred them to Jewish workers; Second, from a political perspective, giving permits to Palestinian workers will make them more dependent on Israel and have less national aspirations. In the following twenty years until 1987, Palestinian workers played an essential role in Israeli labor market, but always under strict supervisions of relevant ministries as well as military inspections. After the first Intifada in 1987, concerning the security problems caused by Palestinians, Israeli government constrained the permits to Palestinian ...