Thousands of Indians apply for construction jobs in Israel despite war

Thousands of Indians flocked to a recruitment centre on Thursday for jobs that would take them to Israel despite the three-month Israeli-Hamas war that is devastating Gaza and threatening to ignite the wider Middle East.

Many among the crowd of men, mostly skilled construction workers and labourers, said they would take their chances in a country embroiled in war as they are struggling to find jobs in India, where unemployment remains high despite a swelling economy.

Anoop Singh, a college graduate and construction worker, was told he would make about €1,500 a month if he was selected to go to Israel – more than triple he could get as a monthly wage for the same work in India.

“That’s why I have applied to go to Israel,” he said as he waited at the centre in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, for his job interview.

Anup Singh, an Indian skilled worker aspiring to be hired for a job in Israel shows his passport and a form he filled during a recruitment drive in Lucknow, India, Thursday.

The men said they had heard media reports that Israel is facing a labour shortage after barring tens of thousands of Palestinian workers following Hamas’ deadly 7 October attack on Israel that triggered the war.

India, where the gross domestic product is about €2,200 per capital annually, seems willing to step in to fill some of that gap.

The states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have advertised for around 10,000 positions each for construction workers in Israel. Uttar Pradesh has finalized a list of 16,000 to send to Israel next month for a final selection, the state labour minister Anil Rajbhar said.

Rajbhar said the federal government’s screening centre in Lucknow was in response to Israel’s request for labourers.

The week-long recruitment drive began on Tuesday, with a 15-member Israeli team overseeing the process and expecting to fill over 5,000 positions for masons, carpenters and other construction workers in Israel.

Indian workers aspiring to be hired for jobs in Israel wait to submit their forms during a recruitment drive in Lucknow, India, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.

On one hand, India’s large economy is one of the world’s fastest growing and seen as a bright spot amid a recent global downturn.

But joblessness remains a concern as India last year became the world’s most populous. After a rise in salaried jobs in the last two decades, the pace of regular wage jobs has stagnated since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic and an overall growth slowdown, according to the State of Working India report by the Azim Premji University.

The report says that while unemployment is falling, it is still high – above 15% for university graduates of all ages and around 42% for graduates under 25.

There are around 13 million Indians working abroad as laborers, professionals and experts, according to government data released last year.

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