January 20, 2024 07:38 AM

NEW DELHI - Thousands of men queued in India's northern state of Harayana during a recruitment drive to send workers to Israel, where the offensive in Gaza, now in its fourth month, has caused a shortage of labour. 

Masons, painters, electricians, plumbers and some farmers said they were looking for jobs in Israel with some willing to risk going into a conflict zone because they could make five times more money in a year than they would at home.

"There is unemployment here and it's because of it that people want to leave," said Lekharam, a mason who was among the workers gathered at a recruitment camp in Rohtak, 66 km (40 miles) from the capital, New Delhi. 

"If it's in our destiny to die, then we can die either here or there. My hope is that we will go and do good work and spend some time and come back."

 India, now the world's most populous nation with a population of 1.4 billion, has an urban unemployment rate of 6.6%, government data shows, but more than 17% of workers younger than 29 are unemployed and others work as casual labour.

Unemployment and underemployment are a key concern for authorities, despite world-beating economic growth of 7.3%.An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson on Thursday said an agreement on labour mobility with Israel was signed before the conflict erupted last year.

"The idea behind this agreement was to put in place an institutional mechanism to regulate migration and ensure rights of people who go there are protected," said Randhir Jaiswal, the spokesperson.

"Labour laws in Israel are very strict and robust...we are very conscious of our responsibility to provide safety to our people abroad," he told reporters.

This month an Israeli financial daily said the country planned to bring in about 70,000 foreign workers from China, India and elsewhere to boost its construction sector, which has come to a standstill since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants.

India's National Skills Development Corporation canvassed in recent weeks for workers to live and work in Israel.

Recruiters at the camp refused to comment on the drive.




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