Israel has approved a plan to allow twice the current number of migrant workers to be employed by foreign construction companies operating in the country. This will mean 12,000 five-year work visas will be approved for foreigners. The move is unusual as the Israeli government is normally strict across the board, especially on matters of finance and immigration.

The proposal, put forward by finance minister Moshe Kahlon, is designed to facilitate the building of residential housing projects. Members of the Israeli Government said that the plan was approved so that the speed of construction can increase. Companies will each be allowed up to 1,000 prospective workers who will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kahlon said the decision was “an additional step for the sake of increasing the housing supply in Israel’. He continued: ‘Industrialized construction technologies, and the skilled workers that the foreign companies will bring with them, will help increase the scope of building, improve the quality and size of the supply”.

Israel Builders Association CEO Eliav Ben Shimon was critical of the move. He said: “Bringing in more foreign companies won’t fix the injustice and the chaos created in the industry. No normal country would solve a crisis in its largest industry by replacing it with a foreign industry.”

The Israeli parliament, known as The Knesset, has made other strong-willed financial decisions in the recent past. The most prominent was in October 2017, they moved to ban binary options, a motion that was passed unanimously. Binary options were seen as a multibillion dollar scam, claiming victims worldwide, which were previously allowed to operate for more than a decade in Israel.

Binary options companies are now outlawed in Israel, and anyone who is involved with such trading can be jailed for up to two years. As the vote approached on the future of binary options in Israel, many of the country’s operators closed down, anticipating the law being passed.

The global binary options industry had many of its most prominent companies based in Israel. Binary options are essentially a form of gambling whereby the customer chooses whether they expect a stock to either rise or fall over a fixed short-term – often a matter of minutes.

Many binary options operators have been exposed as crooked and this is a very common form of online fraud, with many regulators around the world also banning trading in this kind of instrument, as short-term market movements are very easy to rig or misrepresent.

Prior to the legislation, few arrests or prosecutions had been made in Israel for binary options fraud and the industry had been operating with little government intervention since 2007. No Israelis were indicted for fraud in that time with fewer than 20 arrested. Now the threat of arrest for operating any kind of binary options trading has effectively ended the industry there.

There have been estimates from the FBI that binary options scams steal $10bn worldwide each year and the US law enforcement agency is stepping up efforts to catch fraudsters.

Israeli member of parliament Rachel Azaria said: “This industry has a huge impact on how Israel is viewed throughout the world. Our government officials go to international conferences and their colleagues abroad raise their eyebrows because of this industry.’

Government financial regulation is strict in Israel. In December, the Israel Securities Authority banned trading in cryptocurrency on Tel Aviv exchanges until the transactions could be regulated. Despite the ban, the country’s Diamond Exchange launched its own cryptocurrency called Carat in February.