A construction worker securing rebar at a building site in Israel (video clip)

Israel’s Committee of Directors General on Foreign Workers, under the stewardship of Prime Minister’s Office Director General Yossi Shelley, has sanctioned an additional quota permitting up to 14,300 more foreign workers to enter Israel. This decisive move aims to alleviate the severe labor shortages stemming from the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

This new quota supplements a prior increase that saw 98,400 foreign workers approved. The new allocation is meticulously divided to address critical sectors:

  • Nursing Institutions (Health Ministry): 2,750 workers
  • Nursing Institutions (Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry): 1,550 workers
  • Transportation Infrastructure: 5,000 workers
  • Renovation Contractor Sub-Sector: 5,000 workers

Impact on Agriculture and Foreign Workers

One of the most striking consequences of the conflict since the harrowing events of October 7 has been the plight of local farmers. These farmers faced the sudden departure of their Thai workers, who fled the country following the trauma of witnessing their colleagues being murdered or kidnapped by Hamas militants.

A significant turning point occurred during the visit of Thai Labor Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn to Israel. In this pivotal meeting, assurances were given regarding the safety of agricultural zones, leading to the revocation of the travel warning issued to Thai nationals. Minister Ratchakitprakarn went a step further, advocating for an increase in the quota for Thai workers from 6,000 to an impressive 20,000 annually.

Since the travel advisory was lifted on May 7, Thai workers have been returning to Israel in significant numbers. For many Thai laborers, particularly those from impoverished northern rural regions earning a meager 1,000 shekels monthly, Israel represents a land of opportunity where they can earn five to eight times more.

Current Status and Future Prospects

Despite the ongoing challenges, including six Thai nationals still being held hostage by Hamas, the number of foreign workers in Israel has rebounded and even surpassed previous levels. As reported by the Population and Immigration Authority, the number of foreign agricultural workers, predominantly Thai, has increased from 30,259 on October 5, 2023, to 35,009 as of June 4, 2024.

Israel's ambassador to Thailand, Orna Sagiv, has been proactive in addressing the concerns of the Thai community. She personally visited 37 out of 39 families whose loved ones were repatriated for burial. In her conversations with Nikkei Asia, Sagiv revealed that many neighbors and relatives expressed a keen interest in working in Israel, highlighting the country's continued attractiveness as a destination for foreign labor.

The bilateral agreement reached in 2020, which abolished fees paid to intermediaries at the workers' expense, has further incentivized Thai workers. Under current regulations, each worker is permitted to stay in Israel for up to five years and three months.

Negotiations are also underway to facilitate the entry of construction workers from Thailand, addressing another sector grappling with a severe labor shortage.


Israel's strategic move to bolster its foreign worker quota is a testament to its commitment to maintaining essential services and sectors during times of crisis. The collaborative efforts with the Thai government and the positive reception from Thai workers underscore a mutually beneficial relationship that continues to thrive even in the face of adversity. This development not only addresses immediate labor shortages but also strengthens the socio-economic ties between Israel and Thailand.

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