The Current Situation of Labour Force in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory
Employment Challenges
“It is not an easy time to be a young man or woman in the Palestinian labour
market today”
Mounir Kleibo
ILO Representative, Jerusalem
1 July 2014
Historical Background
 Settlements are essentially large
housing projects built illegally by
Israel on land confiscated from
Palestinians within the West Bank
and Jerusalem. These settlements
are joined to each other and to Israel
through "by-pass" roads, which are
for the exclusive use of Israelis and
which are also built on privately
owned Palestinian land confiscated
by the Israeli government.
 Settlement construction and
expansion more than doubled
during 2013.
* Abu Gneim Forest – Abu Gneim
The Separation Wall
 Length 709km
 85% of the separation wall is
within the West Bank itself, not
along the Green Line
 Restrictions and more
hardships to Palestinians
 Difficulties in reaching their
 Destruction of thousands of
olive trees
 Restriction of movement
between villages
Overall Economic Situation in the OPT
 Real GDP growth only 2% in 2013
 Decline in the productive sectors of agriculture and
industry – 1/5 of the GDP in 2013 compared to over 1/3
in 1994
 Agricultural productivity particularly low – Agriculture
contributed 3.7% of the GDP and accounted for 10.5%
of employment
 Service sector dominates the economy in terms of
both GDP and employment
The Labour Force participation in the OPT
The labour force rate of persons aged 15 years and above was 46.3%
The number of persons participating in the labour force in the OPT was about 1,253,600 in the 1st quarter 2014; about 812,200 in
the West Bank and about 441,400 in Gaza Strip.
The number of unemployed was increased from 301,200 in the 4th quarter 2013 to 328,000 in the 1st quarter 2014: the number
increased in Gaza Strip from 159,600 in 4th quarter 2013 to 180,200 in 1st quarter 2014, also it increased in the West Bank from
141,600 to 147,800 in the same period.
The unemployment rate in Gaza Strip increased from 38.5% in the 4th quarter 2013 to 40.8% in the 1st quarter 2014 while it was at
the same level in the West Bank at 18.2% in the same period, and the unemployment rate for males in Palestine was 23.3%
compared with 36.5% for females in the 1st quarter 2014.
The highest unemployment rate in the 1st quarter 2014 was 43.0% among youth aged 20-24 years.
The highest unemployment rates in the West Bank governorates was in Jerusalem with 21.4%. In Gaza Strip, the highest
unemployment rate was in Khan Younis with 46.4%.
The services sector was the biggest employer in the local market with 32.6% in the West Bank and 56.3% in Gaza Strip.
The public sector employed 22.9% of those in employment: 40.5% in Gaza Strip and 15.9% in the West Bank.
Situation of Palestinian Women in the Labour
Women labor force participation aged 15 years and
above during 1st qurter 2014 was 17.3 %
About half of the Palestinian population are females
 Female participation in the LFis amongst
the lowest in the world at and is much
lower for women with higher education
and university degrees.
Gender-based stereotypes on women’s role and
position in the workplace, few employment
opportunities for women and jobs mainly
 Participation of men in LF are still four
times higher than women
Women, particularly those lacking skills hold menial
positions with compensations that don’t meet
minimum wage and no overtime work
 High levels of gender-based occupational
Female participation in the LFis amongst the lowest
in the world at and is much lower for women with
higher education and university degrees.
 Women’s informal work not full reflected
in labour statistics
 Membership of women in trade unions
and employers’ organizations low
Youth Employment in the OPT
Definition of youth
While in other contexts, a youth is defined as a person aged between 15 and 24 (United Nations, for example),
for the purpose of the SWTS and related reports, the upper age limit is 29 years of age. This recognizes the fact
that some young people remain in education beyond the age of 24, and allows the opportunity to capture more
information on the post-graduation employment experiences of young people.
70 % of the Palestinian population under the age of 30
49% of young men aged 15-24 participated in the labour force compared to 8.8% of young women
Unemployment rate for young men was 36.9% while for women 64.7%
Youth unemployment rates in Palestine are among the highest in the region, particularly for young women, and
long-term unemployment affects more than half of unemployed youth.
While unemployment may be higher among the better educated, the results clearly show that investing in
education brings positive returns to youth in terms of wages and access to the “better” jobs.
Youth Employment in the OPT
 The youth labour force participation rate is very low at 38.5 per cent
and reflects a wide gender gap (61.8 per cent for young men
compared to 15.6 per cent for young women).
 Forty-two (41.8) per cent of young males are working and only 7.1
per cent of young females. With a strong majority in paid
employment, it appears that self-employment is not an attractive
option for most youth Poor quality of employment is a concern that
impact on the capacity of the youth (and the territory) to make the
most of their economic potential.
 The youth labour market in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is
profoundly influenced by gender issues.
Recent School to Work Transition
Survey 2014
Situation in Gaza
 Food insecurity 60%
 80% of the population rely
on humanitarian aid
 Unemployment rose due
to the closure of the
tunnel economy – 34.8%
for men and 53.5% for
 Youth unemployment in Gaza
was 51.8% for young men and
86.3 for young women
 Despite positive developments
in the official educational
system, young Palestinians still
face difficult labour market
transitions. Unemployment
among youth is a major
national concern, but it is also
important to consider the
quality of work made available
to the young population.
Situation in Gaza
 Gaza productive capacity is
diminished by restrictions on
access to its agricultural land
and fishing water in addition to
restriction on imports
 35% of Gaza’s agricultural land
is a buffer zone
 Fishing limits were extended in
March 2013 from 3 to 6 nautical
miles ( still far from the 12
nautical miles negotiated in
2002 Bertini Agreement)
 Energy and water shortages one
of the main problems in Gaza
 Gazans receive as little as 8
hours of electricity per day
 No fewer than 30 % of
households only receive running
water for 6-8 hours once every
four day
 Over 90% of the water extracted
from the Gaza aquifer is deemed
unsafe for human consumption (
OCHA, 2013)
Palestinian Workers in Israel
 Employment in Israel is
regulated by a quota and
permit system
 Minimum age to obtain a
permit is 24 years old but
you have to be married and
have children
 By March 2014, the total
quota of permits was 48,250
of which 45,007 were issued
 It is estimated that 35,000
Palestinians took work in
Israel without a permit
through unregulated
 Palestinian workers without
permits are particularly
vulnerable to exploitation
and abusive practices
Palestinian Workers in Israeli Settlements
 Working in Israeli
settlements is not a choice
but a necessity for
Palestinian workers
 Palestinian men tend to
work in construction and
industrial sector while
women work in agriculture
or domestic work
 Many Palestinian workers in
settlement endure abuse
 Women are particularly
exposed to abusive practices
by labour brokers including
excessive fees or wage
deduction and sexual violence
 Palestinian workers in
settlement are exposed to
occupational safety risks and
hazardous conditions without
adequate protection
Challenges Facing Palestinian Workers working
in Israel and in Israeli Settlements
 Israeli occupation of more than 60 per cent of West Bank and imposition of
movement barriers make mobility of workers difficult within the territory.
 The Israeli wall erected in the territory has confiscated large parts of agricultural
areas and natural resources in the West Bank.
 Border controls by the Palestinian National Authority and Israeli restrictions on
the passage of tradable goods
Challenges facing Palestinian workers working
in Israel and in Israeli settlements
 Employment in Israel and Israeli
settlements of the West Bank provide
some jobs to Palestinian youth. However,
this source of employment is restricted
by Israeli closure on the OPT.
 Working conditions in Israel for young
Palestinians have deteriorated, with
many workers taking up informal jobs.
 Although they need official work permits
from Israeli occupation authorities in
West Bank, Palestinian workers find
themselves obliged to stay in Israel due
to closure policy over West Bank.
Child and Persons with Disability as part of the
Labour Force in the OPT
 In 2004, an estimated 3.1 per cent of
Palestinian children aged 5-17 years of age
were working children, 56.2 per cent
being classified as child labourers. This
figure has further increased to 4.1 per
cent by 2014 and today, an estimated
32,000 children aged 10-17 work either as
unpaid family workers (including 98 per
cent of girls) or waged and self-employed
 The majority of child labour in oPt is in
agriculture - 38.5 per cent and this trend
has been consistent throughout the
Persons with disability (PWDs) face great
impediments and obstacles for being
integrated in the oPt labour market. Rate of
unemployment among PWDs is 78% while
rate of employment is only 22%.
Most of employment opportunities are short
term/project base and are linked with NGOs
or international organizations.
Women with disability suffer even more
from obstacles concerning accessibility to
the labour market. These obstacles are
related to gender-based attitudes, traditions
and customs,low wages, unequal
opportunity, etc. Rate of unemployment
among women with disability is 73%.
Pictures of Child Labour in the OPT
Challenges in the Labour Market in the
occupied East Jerusalem:
The Israeli authorities do not provide key services in the fields of education and employment for Palestinians in East
Jerusalem, which severely impacts upon the educational system and fails to prepare students with skills that best fit labour
market requirements.
Part of the education and higher education system falls within the responsibility of the Israeli Ministry of Education and
Municipality. It is subjected to serious negligence, low budgets, over crowding, lack of regular and vocational schools, and
lack of classrooms, capacity and facilities.
Students in East Jerusalem schools learn Hebrew as a third language along with Arabic and English, and at times they have to
learn a fourth language if they are acquiring their education in private foreign schools (French or German).
Graduates of the Arabic educational system under the Palestinian Ministry of Education (i.e. Waqf, governmental, UNRWA
and private schools in East Jerusalem) do not learn or practice the Hebrew language, which in turn is a major constraint in
facilitating their entering the Israeli labour market, which requires full fluency for day-to-day use.
Many of the Palestinian youths in East Jerusalem attempt to acquire academic titles and vocational training in the West Bank,
and even overseas in Arab or European countries or the United States of America.
Some of the disturbing consequences for all this would be the migration or relocation (and thus loss) of those educated and
cultured people – raised initially in East Jerusalem – to the West Bank or even abroad
Challenges of Employment in East Jerusalem
The enforcement of the strenuous check point procedure and permits to enter Jerusalem has resulted in excluding East Jerusalem
from all
The erection of the security wall surrounding East Jerusalem along 142 kilometers has caused direct losses to the economy in East
Reduction in consumer demand was a major factor in the closure of more than 280 stores in East Jerusalem over the last 15 years, 50
of them in the old city alone.
The excessive cost and complex bureaucracy precluded Palestinian businessmen from establishing commercial projects in East
The dire public transport services in East Jerusalem pose another obstacle to any Palestinian working in West Jerusalem, for it only
covers Palestinian populated areas and the commercial centre in the old city.
Palestinian women in East Jerusalem are greatly affected by the declining socio-economic status, the lack of educational
frameworks for herself and her children, and the scarcity of appropriate jobs. The rate of Palestinian women engaged in the labour
market does not exceed 15%; the type of work they perform is usually within the fields of education and office functions in the
private sector.
Area C : More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it
agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians.
 Area C constitutes 61 percent of
the West Bank and is the only
contiguous land connecting 227
smaller separate and heavily
residential areas.
 Unleashing the potential from that
‘restricted land and allowing
Palestinians to put these resources
to work, would provide whole new
areas of economic activity and set
the economy on the path to
sustainable growth.
Growth of approximately six percent
annually is needed to absorb new entrants
to the labor market,
A vital economy is essential for citizen wellbeing, social stability and building
confidence to underpin the challenging
political negotiations.
If businesses and farms were permitted to
develop in Area C, this would add as much as
35 percent to the Palestinian GDP
The loss to the Palestinian economy at about
US$3.4 billion.
World Bank 2014
Area C : More than half the land in the West Bank,
much of it agricultural and resource rich, is
inaccessible to Palestinians.
 Freeing economic activity in Area C would have a particularly high
impact on the development of businesses in agriculture and Dead
Sea minerals exploitation, stone mining and quarrying, construction,
tourism, and telecommunications. Other sectors would be able to
benefit from improvements in the quality and cost of infrastructure
and increased demand for goods and services
 The volume of increased economic activity would greatly improve
the PA’s fiscal position. It is estimated that government revenues
would increase by US$800 million, which would cut the fiscal deficit
by half, hence reduce the need for donor support, and reduce
unemployment and poverty rate
ILO in the OPT
 ILO has been supporting and continues to support
women and youth empowerment in the oPt, through
supporting the promotion and development of
women-only cooperatives, introducing new
vocational education training programmes for young
people, and supporting entrepreneurship by offering
know-how on business management and funding for
business startups.
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