New study advances the transition of Palestinian informal industry workers through social dialogue

An ILO study has equipped stakeholders and the tripartite partners with evidence-based data and tools to safeguard society, workers, and employers alike in informal economies through collaborative effort in labour market governance and social dialogue. The validation workshop serves as a milestone in the Social Dialogue for Formalization and Employability in the Southern Neighbourhood Region (SOLIFEM) project, co-funded by the European Union and the ILO.

Press release | 18 September 2023
RAMALLAH (ILO News) - A recent study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has unveiled concerning statistics: 75 per cent of textile sector workers and one-third of those in the nursery and kindergarten sectors work informally. These figures shed light on the extent of informality in the Palestinian economy, emphasizing the pressing need for formalization.

In the study, informal work is defined as all remunerative labour, including both self-employment and wage employment, lacking registration, regulation, or legal protection. Informal workers face the absence of secure employment contracts, worker benefits, social protection, and representation.

Various factors contribute to informality, including limited job opportunities, regulatory challenges, skills mismatches, informal employment arrangements, gender disparities, and social constraints.

In a collaborative effort aimed at advancing the transition from informality to formality in various sectors of the Palestinian economy, the ILO partnered with the Ministry of Labour and with its social partners the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (FPCCIA) under the Social Dialogue for Formalization and Employability in the Southern Neighbourhood Region (SOLIFEM) project, co-funded by the European Union and the ILO. The partners jointly hosted a tripartite workshop to unveil the outcomes of the diagnostic study focusing on the informal economy within the textile sector, nursery sector, and kindergartens signifying a milestone in the project.

Addressing the workshop attendees, Dr. Abu Jaish, the Minister of Labour, emphasized the pivotal significance of transitioning from unregulated labour to an organized labour sector. He underscored the numerous benefits this transformation would bring to both workers and employers, as well as its profound impact on the Palestinian economy. Dr. Abu Jaish highlighted that such a transition could substantially reduce unemployment and poverty rates which reached a concerning 24 per cent and 26 per cent respectively in 2022. He called for fortifying the foundation for a robust economy through a qualitative leap in efforts to diminish the prevalence of unregulated labour in the OPT. This would be achieved through collaborative endeavours among the three key stakeholders—employers, workers, and the government—in implementing the Palestinian labour law and the Social Security Law, which serves as a cornerstone for the move towards a more organized labour sector, the Minister said.

In his noteworthy address, Shaher Saad, Secretary General of the PGFTU, underscored the critical importance of collaborative efforts among social partners to usher in a transformation from informality to formality within the Palestinian economy and labour sector. Saad emphasized that the diligent enforcement of laws, especially the Social Security Law, holds the potential to positively impact the advancement of the Palestinian economy and a reduction in unemployment rates.

Furthermore, Abdo Idrees, President of the PFCCIA, highlighted how this transition to formality serves as a safeguard for society, workers, and employers alike. He stressed that the development of labour market governance is achievable through robust partnerships involving workers, employers, and the government, all facilitated by meaningful social dialogue.

Frida Khan, the ILO representative in Jerusalem, elaborated on the SOLIFM project's core principle of labour market governance and social dialogue. She stressed the importance of information exchange among groups with shared interests to foster equity and develop recommendations and solutions. These efforts are particularly focused on improving the situation in informal sectors and facilitating their transition into formal ones, with a special focus on the textile sector, nursery, and kindergarten sector, to establish a robust and stable employment system.

Ibrahim al-Afia, Head of Cooperation at the Office of the EU Representative to West Bank and Gaza, reaffirmed the European Union's support for Palestinians through various programmes, including those targeted at formalizing work in informal sectors. This support is intended to bring about regularity in areas characterized by informal labour practices, ultimately contributing to the creation of a stronger economy.

Dr. Randa Hilal, General Manager of Optium Consulting and Training Company, conducted a comprehensive diagnostic study on the informal economy as part of the SOLIFEM project, with a specific focus on the textile sector and the nursery and kindergarten sector. The study's objective was to provide stakeholders with actionable insights to guide policies and procedures, ultimately supporting the transition to formality and improving working and living conditions, in line with ILO Recommendation 204, which encourages governments and social partners to develop action plans through a process of social dialogue to promote formalization.

Workers from the two sectors attended two training workshops held by SOLIFEM, in a crucial step towards building their capacity in informality concepts and ILO tools for formalization. The ILO and unions affiliated to the PGFTU are preparing field visits in the upcoming months for negotiations with employers to develop a work plan for the two-sectors to address informality.

This collaborative effort is a vital step towards creating a more equitable and prosperous future for all.