Occupied Palestinian Territory

An elderly Palestinian woman gathers wheat from a field in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  

The Palestinian people continue to suffer under an occupation that has jeopardised the attainment of their basic human rights and human security, as well as any meaningful progress in human development. The economic situation has also been exacerbated by a continued divide between the West Bank and Gaza, stagnating economic growth, persistent fiscal crises, higher unemployment, as well as increased poverty and food insecurity.

The recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer State by the United Nations General Assembly (Resolution 67/19 of 29 November 2012) gave the Palestinian people a political boost and carried hopes for meaningful progress in state-building efforts and socio-economic development. The challenges, however, of reduced donor aid, lower than budgeted clearance revenues from Israel and further expansion of settlements constitute formidable obstacles to targeted social, economic and political development interventions.

Following economic gains primarily attributed to the upsurge in construction activity linked to the tunnel economy in Gaza during the 2008 to 2011 period, gross domestic product (GDP) growth has stagnated. Increased political instability, the absence of any further easing of Israeli-imposed restrictions on economic activity, as well as Israel’s 2012 military operation in Gaza have all contributed to raising the rate of unemployment from 21 per cent in 2011 to 24.5 per cent in 2013.

In parallel, the size of the Palestinian labour force reached over 1.1 million in 2013. Yet, labour force participation is still considered low at 43.0 per cent in June 2013 and is characterized by a low participation rate for women, which, despite some improvements, stood at 16.6 per cent compared with 68.7 per cent for men. The youth, and particularly young women, have also been heavily impacted by labour market distress.

The ILO in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

The ILO is currently implementing a technical cooperation programme based on the priorities outlined in the OPT’s National Development Plan to support state building efforts and accelerated socio-economic development required to secure a safe, stable and prosperous future for the Palestinian people. The technical cooperation programme has an overall portfolio that stands at around US$1.9 million and is funded by the Government of Kuwait, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Welfare Association and the ILO.

In 2013, the ILO in the OPT developed an overarching Palestinian decent work programme (DWP) with tripartite constituents and stakeholders. The DWP contributes to the National Development Plan, the sectorial strategy of the Ministry of Labour, and the first United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the State of Palestine (2014– 2016). The DWP and aims to:
•    promote labour rights and improved labour market governance;
•    enhance employment and livelihood opportunities for Palestinian women and men; and
•    facilitate the development of an integrated social security system and the extension of social protection to all those in need in the OPT.

Local economic recovery

The fishing industry in Gaza has been one of the sectors most affected by Israeli military operations and the continued blockade that has been imposed since 2007. The fishery sector employs some 3400 registered fishermen in the Gaza Strip and is characterised by both self-employed fishermen as well as workers (seasonal or permanent) working on bigger boats.

Small-scale fishermen and their families are also some of the hardest hit by food insecurity in Gaza. Over half of these fishermen suffer from food insecurity, which has increased since 2010 relative to other population groups.

The ILO project “Supporting Livelihoods and Job Opportunities in the Fishery Sector” in Gaza seeks to improve the livelihoods of those in Gaza who depend on the fishing sector by employing a family-based approach where youth and women benefit from the project and use it as a tool for their economic and social empowerment. See more…

Child labour

High adult unemployment rates as well as falling and average real wages in the OPT have created pressures on children to work to support their families. This is further exacerbated by weaknesses in the education system and the lack of an effective, reliable and comprehensive social security system, which increases the risk of families resorting to child labour.

The ILO project “Enhanced Knowledge and Capacity of Tripartite Partners to Address the Worst Forms of Child Labour in the occupied Palestinian territory” supports the global goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 through awareness raising and capacity building initiatives that target government, worker, employer and civil society representatives in the OPT. By promoting a greater understanding of child labour, including its worst forms, national partners can take action to adopt or modify legislation and reinforce their knowledge base on child labour. See more…

Gender empowerment

Over the past decade the occupied Palestinian territory has witnessed a significant and persistent gender gap in labour force participation. While men's labour force participation rate has remained steady since 2000 (registering 68.7 per cent by June 2013) women's labour force participation rate has remained at less than a quarter of men's rate, albeit rising from 13 per cent in 2000 to 16 per cent by June 2013.

A significant gender pay gap also persists in the OPT where women's median daily wage is only 84 per cent of men's. Women's access to decent work in the oPt is also the result of the ramifications of the continued Israeli occupation, the limited employment opportunities generated by the Palestinian economy, the inadequate provision of social protection, as well as social norms prevailing in Palestinian society. See more...

Social protection

The ILO’s social protection efforts in the OPT are based on the UN’s Global Initiative for a Universal Social Protection Floor, which employs a normative country-level approach to promote access to essential services and social transfers for the poor and vulnerable. The social protection system and the policy regulating it in the oPt remains scattered and falls short of providing effective income security and access to health care for all resident Palestinians.

The OPT suffers from a lack of employment injury and healthcare benefits as well as unemployment and maternity insurance. A functional tripartite social security institution which can administer and deliver social insurance benefits to insured workers and their households still does not exist. Within this context, this ILO project “Establishing a Social Security System for Private Sector Workers,” builds on a series of consultations with tripartite constituents and the OPT’s National Development Plan to focus efforts on support to the OPT that promotes the establishment of a social security sector strategy and the progressive establishment of a comprehensive social insurance system for workers. See more...

Labour governance

The OPT continues to suffer from major gaps in its legal and institutional framework to protect workers and ensure sound labour market governance. Good governance, respect for the rule of law, and, in particular, the development of strong, independent and widely-respected institutions essential to the transition to statehood are still a challenge in the OPT.

Since 2010, the ILO has been working with labour inspectors across the OPT to bolster their capacity and improve their ability to identify, report and address issues such as occupational safety and health.

Based on past interventions related to labour governance and consultations with its tripartite constituents, the ILO project “Strengthening labour market governance in the occupied Palestinian territory through reformed labour law and enhanced social dialogue,” seeks to address these problems by developing and improving the labour market’s legislative framework, as well as promoting effective institutions and processes required for substantive and inclusive social dialogue. See more…

Skills, Employability and Entrepreneurship

With low levels of employment and wide disparities labour force inclusion according to gender, the ILO has been active in skills development to meet job market requirements as well as promoting entrepreneurship throughout the OPT. To achieve this goal the he ILO works with UN partner organisations as well as other key stakeholders to improve the overall employability of Palestinians living in the territory. See more...

Persons with disabilities

According to Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, more than 110,000 Palestinians or around 2.7 per cent of the total population living in the OPT had a disability in 2011, some of which are a direct consequence of violence inflicted by Israeli settlers, police or the army. Around 70 per cent of persons with disabilities have little or no formal education and 87.3 per cent of persons over 18 with a disability do not work.

In order to raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities and develop capacities to mainstream disability in the education, health, employment, and social sectors in the OPT, the ILO has partnered with five other UN agencies under the framework of the “UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” programme. The programme aims to strengthen the respect for the human rights of persons with disabilities through legislation, services, as well as social and economic empowerment in compliance with the Palestinian Disability Law and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.