This story was written by the ILO Newsroom For official ILO statements and speeches, please visit our “Statements and Speeches” section.

Sustaining livelihoods

New skills and jobs for Gaza fishers

An ILO training initiative gives a group of unemployed men from fishing families in the Gaza Strip a chance to learn new skills and increase their chances of employment in Gaza’s sea fishing sector, which is beset by severe restrictions on movement and trade.

Feature | 14 January 2016
Trainees listen to instructions on maintenance and repair of boat engines and electrical generators as part of on-site training provided by the ILO in Gaza's fishing sector.
GAZA (ILO News) – Thirty young unemployed Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in the occupied Palestinian territory are developing technical skills and improving their chances of future employment through an ILO-organized instruction and on-the-job training scheme designed to support the vital fishing sector in the Palestinian enclave.

The trainees are men who come from families engaged in the enclave’s fishing sector. They recently completed the first two phases of the scheme, which is part of the ILO’s capacity-building “Skills Development and Enhancement of Employability in the Fishing Sector” programme, implemented in partnership with Gaza’s General Syndicate of Marine Fishers.

The programme works on alleviating poverty and restoring livelihoods for the most vulnerable fishers in the Palestinian coastal enclave, targeting the fishers and boat owners most affected by the Israeli military operation in Gaza in the summer of 2014.

“The ILO targeted a group of young men who are members of fishing families, and worked jointly with the United Nations Relief Works Agency through its training centres, to provide these young men with skills that will enable them to enter the job market in a more competent and specialized manner,” said ILO Representative in Jerusalem Mounir Kleibo.

Preserving a historic trade

The idea was to preserve the historic fishing trade in Gaza but also to provide young people with desperately needed jobs. The first phase of the course entailed theoretical and practical instruction on repair and maintenance of boat engines and electrical generators, as well as maintenance of electrical networks on shore.

Trainees fit a fishing boat with a repaired engine, as part of on-site training provided by the ILO in Gaza's fishing sector.
The theoretical instruction was delivered by the Syndicate of Fishers at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA)’s Training Centre in Gaza. At the end of the first phase of the classroom training, the ILO provided each young trainee a toolkit with essential tools and instruments needed for boat engine repair and maintenance of electrical generators and networks. The second phase of the training provided on-site practical instruction on these modules at the Gaza Sea port.

Jihad Salah, head of the fishery services department at the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, said: “This programme includes a number of activities to train the men on skills not directly involving fishing, but rather related to the sector as a whole. This creates job opportunities in sub-sectors of the fishing industry, which is vital developing the value chain of the sector as a whole.”

New skills benefit fishers

One of the trainees, Hussam Al Absi, said his newly acquired skills on repairing boat engines and electricity generators would be of great benefit to him at work.

Trainees receive on-site practical instruction on repair and maintenance of boat engines and electrical generators.
“I can now save myself some money and time. If a generator breaks down while I’m at sea, I no longer need to carry it ashore and back again. I can now dismantle it myself, fix it and keep up with its regular maintenance.”

The 30 men have now embarked on another phase of the scheme: a paid three-month, on-the-job training period. During this phase, the apprentices will apply their newly-acquired skills by repairing the vessels of 20 boat owners whose boats were damaged during the 2014 Israeli military operation.

The programme will also implement an initiative to train 100 Gaza fishers on occupational safety and health measures and safe fish handling.

The programme is part of the larger ILO project in Gaza entitled ‘Supporting Livelihoods for Fishermen and their Families in the Gaza Strip’, which in turn feeds into the ILO’s emergency response to the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The fishing sector plays a crucial role in providing food security, income generation and job creation in Gaza, with thousands of households depending on the sector directly. These include families of fishers, mechanics, electricians, traders of fishing gear, carpenters, and fish retailers and distributers, as well as producers in the food industry.

Providing food security and jobs

“The fishing sector is a vital sector that contributes to Palestinian GDP, and contributes to providing food security for the residents of the Gaza Strip,” said Rashid Al Ruzzi, ILO coordinator in Gaza.

“The sector also provides numerous employment opportunities – about 4,500 jobs for fishers and for those working in occupations connected to the fishing industry. The sector offers livelihoods to some 30,000 people (in Gaza),” Al Ruzzi continued.

Workers in the sector suffer from a loss of market share, income and livelihood on a vast scale, and are amongst those most affected by food insecurity in the Gaza Strip. Over the years, Israeli and Egyptian controls have imposed severe restrictions on movement and trade in the Strip, reduced the size of fishing zones – with as much as 85 per cent of Gaza’s fishing waters having been affected at various points – and led to a sharp rise in the cost of production in the fishing sector.

In July and August 2014, an Israeli military operation destroyed Gaza’s social and economic infrastructure on an unprecedented scale.

► Download a broadcast-quality, international version of this footage on ILO's Multimedia Download Centre.