Temporary and Illegal Labour Migration: The Israeli Experience



In recent years, Israel has become a major recipient of documented and undocumented temporary labour migrants from many countries outside the Middle East region. The purposes of this article are to describe Israel’s experience of temporary labour migration and its concomitant, illegal labour migration; and also to explore what her policies on temporary labour migration indicate about the nature of the policy-making process in this policy domain in Israel.

To these ends the article traces the evolution of temporary labour migration – legal and illegal – and recent policy initiatives of the Israeli government. It then considers some of the major conceptions of the policy-making process found in public policy literature. The article concludes by pointing to the uniqueness of Israel’s experience of temporary labour migration and to the fact that her policies have been overwhelmingly reactive – inadequately considered, ill-conceived, ambivalent in relation to their ultimate purpose and, in the course of implementation, vulnerable to “privatization” (being taken over by vested interest groups).

Analysis of the most recent policy initiatives designed to reduce the number of legal labour migrants and address the problem of illegal labour migrants, reflect a policy-making process that is not followed by commensurate action.