The economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has seen some improvement but remains precarious, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where the continued Israeli blockade undermines prospects for employment and growth, says a new United Nations report.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), in its annual publication on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, attributes the improvement to an accelerated growth rate and a slightly higher rate of employment – roughly 15 per cent in both Gaza and the West Bank.
The agency adds though that the higher rate of employment is still very low by international standards. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of nearly 40 per cent in Gaza is among the highest in the world.
In addition, the three-year-old blockade which Israel imposed on Gaza after Hamas ousted the Fatah movement and took control of the Strip in 2007 has led to uneven economic growth between that area and the West Bank.
“The longer the closure continues, the more it undermines future prospects of workers and their families, in particular of the younger generation,” states the report, which was prepared for ILO’s International Labour Conference which opened in Geneva on 2 June.
The report stresses the crucial issue of access in the economic situation of the occupied Palestinian territory.
“Restrictions on access and movement in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, which include the separation barrier, checkpoints and other physical obstacles, together with an increasingly sophisticated permit system, continue to strongly undermine economic activity, the Palestinian social fabric, enterprises and the well-being of workers,” it states.
“The ILO has always maintained that improvements in access and movement have a positive impact on economic development and employment in the occupied Palestinian territory,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia writes in the preface to the report.
“A lasting solution to the conflict rests on building an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living in peace and security with all its neighbours,” he adds.
The report also notes that East Jerusalem is becoming more isolated from the rest of the West Bank due to a policy of reducing the proportion of Palestinians living and working there. In this connection, it voices deep concern about the recent announcement by Israel that it will continue with the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, impediments to movement and access constitute the most important barriers to economic development and the establishment of a normal social fabric in the occupied Syrian Golan, according to the report.
Mr. Somavia also points out that “the bleak economic, social and humanitarian situation in the occupied Arab territories creates an environment in which workers’ rights and human dignity continue to be violated on a daily basis.”
In response to critical needs, ILO has further expanded its technical cooperation programme in the occupied Palestinian territory, giving special attention to supporting social partners and promoting dialogue among the Palestinian Authority, workers’ and employers’ organizations.