China has agreed for thousands of migrant construction labourers to work in Israel in a bid to alleviate a housing crisis in the Jewish state, the Israeli government said on Wednesday.
The agreement would see 6,000 Chinese workers arrive in Israel in the six months after the formal signature of the deal expected at the end of February, a joint statement from the interior and finance ministries said.
An Israeli delegation and China’s commerce ministry have signed a draft agreement in China, it said.
The statement quoted Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon as saying the arrival of the Chinese workers would "energise efforts to solve the housing crisis".
Housing costs in Israel have been rising steeply since 2008, according to Bank of Israel data, significantly affecting the cost of living and triggering a wave of street protests in 2011.
Kahlon, whose Kulanu party ran in the 2015 general election on a platform of lowering living costs, came under fire after an August government report showed apartment prices had risen by 8% in a year.
Nearly 9,000 foreign construction labourers work in Israel, all of them from East European countries and half of them under bilateral agreements, according to the interior ministry.
The ministry says these agreements allow for the rights of foreign workers to be protected and cut out private manpower firms that charge high commissions and exploit migrant labourers.