Employment promotion

A new employment strategy and minimum wage for the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Palestinian government, worker and employer representatives hold a social dialogue conference, launching a new employment strategy developed with ILO support, raising the national minimum wage, and agreeing on steps forward to improve the labour market and boost employment.

Press release | 05 March 2021

RAMALLAH (ILO News)
- Tripartite government, worker and employer representatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) launched the Palestinian National Employment Strategy 2021-2025, which aims to “achieve full, productive and freely chosen employment for jobseekers, particularly youth and women.”

The Strategy was launched at the OPT’s first National Social Dialogue Conference on “Addressing labour market challenges,” held in Ramallah from 3-4 March with financial and technical support from the ILO.

Tripartite representatives arrived at a number of agreements during the conference, including raising the national minimum wage in the OPT from 1,450 to 1,880 Israeli shekels – or from approximately 437 to 567 US dollars - per month.

The conference opened with addresses from Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, ALO Director-General Fayez Mutairi, Palestinian Minister of Labour Nasri Abu Jaish, the General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) Shaher Saed, and President of the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (FPCCIA) Omar Hashem.

Joining virtually from Geneva, ILO Director-General Ryder congratulated Palestinian stakeholders for developing and adopting the National Employment Strategy through tripartite social dialogue.

“The Strategy aims to respond both to the immediate pandemic-induced emergency, as well as longer-term structural labour market challenges, that have been shaped by decades of occupation,” Ryder said. “This Strategy seems to me very well aligned with the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.”

Ryder added: “Allow me to stress the importance of focusing on people, on a human-centred recovery for building back better, by prioritizing employment, income and social protection, workers’ rights and social dialogue. If we want a lasting, sustainable and inclusive recovery for Palestinians, this is the path that I believe we must all commit to.”

With the ILO’s support, a tripartite and inter-ministerial committee developed the Palestinian National Employment Strategy to address labour market challenges and promote policy coherence.

Based on a thorough analysis of the labour market situation, the Strategy involves stakeholders in a comprehensive framework that links a range of employment and labour market-related issues. It aims to better address employment challenges in the OPT, while building on the commitment of the government and social partners to work collaboratively to promote decent jobs for all, with a particular focus on youth and women.

Next steps

Over the course of two days, conference participants deliberated a number of working papers developed with the ILO’s technical and financial support.

The Conference concluded with a statement that announced agreements on areas of concern and future actions.

The statement contained a pledge by partners to implement the National Employment Strategy and support Palestinian National Authority policy on disengaging from the Israeli economy and building an independent economy.

The statement also pledged to work with the ILO and the Arab Labour Organization to hold a donor conference to seek international support for boosting employment and decent work in the OPT.

Partners agreed to work on bridging the wide gap in the Palestinian social protection system by launching comprehensive national dialogue to review the Social Security Law.

The statement announced that the new minimum wage of 1,880 Israeli shekels would come into effect at the beginning of 2022.

The partners agreed to form a tripartite committee and develop an implementation plan to achieve a set of objectives by the end of 2021: review and amend the Palestinian Labor Law; review and approve the law regulating trade union work; review and evaluate the second Palestinian Decent Work Programme in cooperation with the ILO; establish mechanisms to enhance sectoral dialogue to address the imbalances in the labour market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; institutionalization of social dialogue to influence economic, social and financial policy-making; adoption of a national vision for protecting the rights of workers in Israel.

Background

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed from a health crisis into a profound economic and labour market shock. In the OPT, this shock has not only impacted supply (production of goods and services) but also demand (consumption and investment), whereby disruptions to production have spread to supply chains. At the same time, all businesses, regardless of size, have been facing serious challenges, especially those in tourism and hospitality industries, as well as services in general, with a real threat of significant declines in revenue, insolvencies and job losses in specific sectors.

The effects of the pandemic further compound the economic impact of the Israeli occupation, which has been characterized by the imposition of restrictions on movement of people and goods and the confiscation of natural resources, resulting in an eroded productive capacity of the Palestinian economy.

Latest labour statistics produced by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show that the unemployment rate stood at 23.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, but averaged more than 25 per cent for the year as a whole. Unemployment remains dramatically high for young people, women, and for Gaza residents.

The unemployment rate among youth (aged 15-29) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remains alarmingly high at 36.3 per cent, with young women’s unemployment standing at 61.6 per cent. The situation is especially dire in Gaza, where young men face an unemployment rate of 58.8 percent, compared with an even a bleaker situation for young women, facing an almost incomprehensible unemployment rate of 91.1 per cent.