It has been over 100 days since Israel began its war on Gaza, and the country is currently grappling with a significant labour shortage. The shortage is a result of its firm decision to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from working there. In October 2023, Israeli construction companies requested their government to permit the hiring of 100,000 Indians as replacements for the Palestinians whose visas had been suspended due to the Gaza war. With India’s unemployment rate reaching a high of 8%, this work opportunity has proven to be appealing to many Indians.
Even though Prime Minister Modi’s government claims economic success and growth, citing the rising GDP of the nation, the lived reality of many Indians is drastically different. India is plagued by a generation of people who are highly educated but either have no jobs or are working at a job much below their educational qualifications. This generation has often been termed the “nowhere generation”. Therefore, when the opportunity to work in Israel popped up, many Indians jumped at it despite the ongoing war situation there.
Masons, painters, electricians, and some farmers stood in long queues at several recruitment centers across Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to interview for construction worker jobs, as it will pay five times more a year than what they earn here in India. Recruiters from Israel interviewed almost 500 applicants a day for the jobs. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen signed an agreement in May 2023 to allow around 40,000 construction workers from India to work there before the crisis erupted four months ago.
However, it isn’t just the construction workers applying for these jobs; educated youngsters are also going for these interviews because of the lack of employment. The unemployment rate among college graduates below the age of 25 has been around 42 percent post the pandemic. Joblessness remains a major concern in India, especially after it became the most populous country last year. According to the State of Working India report by Azim Premji University, “after a rise of 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”.
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