Despite conflict, Thai labourers eye Israel’s farmlands for higher wages

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The escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, hasn’t deterred Thai labourers from seeking employment in Israel’s farmlands. Their decision to remain or return to work in Israel is primarily driven by the substantial financial benefits they can accrue.

Satid Prom-u-narot, 37 years old, highlighted the stark disparity in wages between the two countries. “On average, I can earn about 600 baht for about two hours of work in Israel. To get that amount in Thailand, I would need to work for a full day. I may even earn less,” he stated.

Although Satid’s camp was attacked by militants, he and his fellow Thai workers escaped unharmed. Despite initial concerns about his safety, Satid decided to return to Israel after spending a week in Thailand. He reasoned, “I have mechanical skills, so I earn a living by working odd jobs like installing air-conditioning, electrical wires, and CCTV systems. But I cannot save a lot of money for my family. I will go to Israel to complete my five-year contract.”

Labour Ministry figures reveal that approximately 30,000 Thais were working in Israel under the Thailand-Israel Cooperation on the Placement of Workers programmes before the conflict ensued. The government repatriated 9,475 Thais, but around 20,000 chose to stay. In an effort to assist the repatriated workers, the government offered each worker 15,000 baht (US$435.79) from its fund and 50,000 baht (US$1,452.64) from an emergency fund for aid. Additionally, low-interest loans of up to 150,000 baht (US$4,357.93) were made available to help workers clear any debts owed to job brokers or to pursue other careers, reported Bangkok Post.

Despite these measures, some, like Satid, opted to return to Israel. He shared that he earned approximately 60,000 baht (US$1,743.17) per month, or up to 90,000 baht (US$2,614.76) with overtime in Israel. He also highlighted his employer’s kindness and understanding as additional reasons for his decision to return.

A 43 year old woman from Buri Ram, who chose to stay in Israel during the conflict, corroborated the financial benefits of working there. She mentioned the 1,000 shekels (about 10,000 baht (US$290.53)) incentive given by her employer to dissuade workers from leaving.

Although Israel is considering increasing quotas for foreign workers from Sri Lanka, Moldova, Kenya, and Malawi to address labour shortages in the agriculture sector, Thai workers believe that they remain the preferred choice due to their farming skills.

A Thai worker cautioned against fraudulent job offers on social media, advising prospective workers to wait for official announcements from the Employment Office in their province.

Samran Thuratham, a 41 year old from Udon Thani, expressed a longing to return to work in Israel, despite having returned to Thailand due to his family’s concerns for his safety. He admitted, “While living in Udon Thani for a month, I realised I would have a better future in Israel.”

Therefore, despite the ongoing conflict, the lure of better wages and working conditions has compelled Thai labourers to choose Israel over Thailand.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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