OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected labour market, social policy and migration studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

English, French

Reforming Policies on Foreign Workers in Israel

Since the early 1990s, Israel has enacted a managed migration scheme for low-skilled foreign workers. Originally designed to replace Palestinian cross-border workers from the Occupied Territories in the secondary labour market, in 2007 foreign workers comprised 8.7% of the private-sector labour force, 40% of them without permits. Foreign workers are employed in three major sectors: construction, agriculture and home-care for the elderly. The latter has become the largest and fastest-growing sector employing foreign workers, mainly women. The Israeli temporary labour migration scheme is characterised by a strong dependency of certain sectors on foreign workers; disengagement of governmental agencies from direct involvement in recruitment, inspection of work conditions, effective enforcement of labour laws, and provision of services for foreign workers; a strong emphasis on temporariness coupled with lengthy and sometimes indefinite extension of possible stay (up to 63 months and potentially more); and lastly, by an entrenched client politics that guides policies on quota setting, permit allocation and employer subsidies. Recent government decisions that seek to overcome the distorting effects of the scheme on the Israeli labour market, while tempering deep-rooted norms that violate workers' labour and human rights, are heading in the right direction. However, they are also destined to fail if the scheme is not substantially revised in all its parts rather than through a patchwork of focused and segmented measures.


Keywords: human trafficking, closed skies, Israel, binding system, foreign workers scheme, Palestinian non-citizen workers, elderly home-care, private brokers
JEL: O15: Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth / Economic Development / Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration; F22: International Economics / International Factor Movements and International Business / International Migration
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