The story so far: The Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments, with the help of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), have started the process of recruiting about 10,000 workers to go to Israel, primarily for construction activities. The NSDC website describes it as a “passport to dreams abroad”, and a chance to “discover new horizons in Israel”. There are 2,000 openings for plastering workers, 2,000 for ceramic tile workers, and 3,000 each for iron bending and frame workers with monthly salaries of about ₹1.37 lakh (6,100 Israeli shekels). Screenings have started in various locations in Haryana and U.P. with the help of State governments.
Who are opposing the move?
Trade unions have opposed this move, citing the Emigration Rules under the Emigration Act. They are planning to challenge this employment drive legally. The central trade unions told the media that such a move is against the Indian ethos of bringing back citizens from conflict zones. The trade union leaders alleged that the BJP-led government was using unemployment among the youth and workers to further their “politics of hate” to please Israel. Several hundreds of people, meanwhile, turned up at the screening centres in Haryana.
What do the Rules prescribe?
Workers going to conflict zones or places without sufficient labour protections are required to register with the Ministry of External Affairs’ ‘e-migrate’ portal. Passports issued under the ECR (Emigration Check Required) scheme cover workers travelling to 18 countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the UAE, and Yemen. Israel is not on this list and the ‘e-migrate’ system will not be used for those going to Israel despite continuing violence due to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
The Rules say that no recruiting agent shall collect from the worker service charges more than a maximum of ₹30,000 and the service charges shall include costs of domestic travel or lodging and boarding for conducting of interviews by the recruiting agent. Here, the workers will have to pay a fee to the NSDC, pay for their flight tickets, etc, which will add up to almost ₹1 lakh. The unions point out that paid recruitment in a war zone facilitated by governments violates provisions of the Emigration Act. The MEA spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, said India is satisfied with Israel’s labour standards. “Labour laws in Israel are very strict, robust. It’s an OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) country, therefore labour laws are such that it provides for protection of migrant rights, labour rights. On our part, we are very conscious of our responsibility to provide security and safety to our people who are abroad,” Mr. Jaiswal said.
What are the international practices?
The international practices for protection of migrant workers are governed by two conventions of the International Labour Organisation: the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) and Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143). While India has not ratified both conventions, Israel had ratified the 1949 convention in 1953. The 1949 convention says: “Each Member for which this Convention is in force undertakes that it will, so far as national laws and regulations permit, take all appropriate steps against misleading propaganda relating to emigration and immigration. For this purpose, it will where appropriate act in co-operation with other Members concerned.”
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman Doron Spielman had told media that “there is not a place in Israel that is safe now” due to Hamas. According to some estimates, about 100 people who died in Gaza are migrant workers from Asian and African countries, and as per the Indian Embassy website, as of February 2023, “There are about 18,000 Indian citizens in Israel, primarily caregivers employed by Israeli elders to take care of them, diamond traders, IT professionals and students.” According to a 2017 report prepared by the ILO, international migration has grown significantly in the last two decades. The number of migrants from Asia to the Arab states has more than tripled, from 5.7 million in 1990 to 19 million in 2015.
What is the way forward?
The global unemployment rate is set to increase in 2024 while growing social inequalities remain a concern, said the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2024 report. Joblessness and the jobs gap have both fallen below pre-pandemic levels but global unemployment will rise in 2024, it said. It added that many low- and middle-income countries will experience a demographic transition after 2030 and asked the countries to design sensible migration policies and skilling initiatives to support and develop local labour markets with growing populations. “To do so will require, among other things, a more accurate forecast of labour demand by occupations and sectors in destination countries, and a strengthened education and training system in countries with excess labour resources,” the report said.
In 2019, a report of the Parliament Standing Committee on External Affairs had asked the Centre to draft a migration policy. The panel, then headed by MP Shashi Tharoor, said it is concerned to note that the existing institutional arrangements for the protection, safety and welfare of Indian emigrants are based on inadequate data infrastructure.
- The U.P. and Haryana governments, with the help of NSDC have started the process of recruiting about 10,000 workers to go to Israel
- Trade unions have opposed this move, citing the Emigration Rules under the Emigration Act. They are planning to challenge this employment drive legally
- The global unemployment rate is set to increase in 2024 while growing social inequalities remain a concern, said the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2024 report