ILO annual report on the occupied Palestinian territory endorsed by the Palestinian government, workers and employers

The ILO Director General’s report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories highlights how the Israeli occupation and a grim political situation, led to a serious deterioration of the Palestinian economy, high unemployment, and worsening labour conditions

News | 10 August 2015
From left to right: Shaher Saed, Mounir Kleibo, Naser Qatami and Khalil Rizq presenting The 2015 annual report of the ILO Director General on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories.
© Monjed Abu Sharar/ILO
Jerusalem (ILO News) – The 2015 annual report of The ILO Director General on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories was endorsed by the Palestinian government, workers and employers representatives at a joint press conference in Ramallah on Monday, 10 August 2015.

The conference concluded that the Israeli military occupation--specifically settlement expansion on Arab land, restrictions on Palestinian movement and access, violence, and the 2014 war in Gaza—all continue to contribute to rising Palestinian unemployment and deteriorating labour conditions..
“The Palestinian government represented by the ministry gives its full consent to the work of the ILO mission and its report monitoring Israeli violations, particularly regarding workers,” said Naser Qatami, Deputy Minister of Labour in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

The ILO report also reaffirms the importance of conducting a serious negotiations process that guarantees the interests of all parties, including Palestinian workers and the businesses that employ them.

Deteriorating work prospects

According to the report, the total number of unemployed Palestinians increased in 2014 compared with the previous year to reach 338,300 with an average unemployment rate of 27 per cent throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. The corresponding rate for Gaza was more than double that of the West Bank.

Palestinian Federation of the Union of Chambers of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry Chairman Khalil Rizq indicated that Palestinians continue to “suffer from the [Israeli constructed separation] barrier, a painful situation in Gaza and, dependency on the Israeli economy, which increase costs on both the business owners as well as workers.”

The number of Palestinians entering the Israeli labour market is also growing as result of rising unemployment in the oPt, the Director General’s report said. An estimated 107,000 Palestinians worked in the Israeli economy in 2014. Of that figure some 52,000 formally worked in Israel, another estimated 26,000 in Israeli-built settlements in the oPt, while one-third worked in precarious conditions without the Israeli-issued permits. Some restrictions on the access of Palestinians to the Israeli labour market have recently been relaxed, the report notes, yet very few Palestinian workers have written contracts and many are paid below the minimum wage, further exposing them to exploitation in the workplace.

“There are many violations against Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints,” pointed the Director General of the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions Shaher Saed.

The report documents the latest developments in the building up of Palestinian institutions and especially social and labour-related processes. Saed praised the report’s mention of “success stories in Palestine including a serious reform process to Palestinian labour laws and beginning of a social security institute project.”

Momentum for reform and accountability

Responding to a question on the use of such reports in the absence of effective mechanisms to reverse the Israeli occupation, ILO representative to the oPt Mounir Kleibo said that “the strength of the report is rooted in documenting the exceptional situation of the occupied territory, monitoring violations, and publicizing the report at the level of the ILO Director General to member-states, who become aware of the existing critical situation.”

“This monitoring and documentation that has been ongoing for 35 years can create momentum for parties involved, including international organizations, to transform the reports’ findings into actions that bring an end to the deterioration of the economy in the occupied territory, push for accountability with respect to violations of workers rights and provide decent work for all segments of Palestinian society,” Kleibo added.

The ILO Director General’s assessment of the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories is based on a mission that involved in-depth discussions and a number of field visits to the occupied Arab territories and Israel in March. Since 1980, the ILO Director General has been mandated to present an annual report to the International Labour Conference on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan.

Key figures from the report:

• Employment in Gaza declined by some 19,000 jobs in 2014, most of it as a direct result of the conflict in Gaza
• Unemployment in the labour force reached 27 per cent throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
• The Palestinian labour force grew by 8.6 per cent in 2014 to reach over 1.25 million workers.
• Youth unemployment rate has reached almost 40 per cent among men and 63 per cent among women.
• Palestinian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) experienced its first year-on-year decline since 2006 in 2014.

To read the full report visit the ILO website