New report details Palestinian plight

May 26th, 2008 | Posted in Labor, Palestine, Politics

    Middle East Times by John Zarocostas.


    Photo: Israeli military demolishing Palestinian homes in Gaza.

Geneva: The economic and social situation of workers in the occupied Palestinian territories has deteriorated alarmingly, with the Gaza Strip the most severely affected, according to an International Labor Organization report published Thursday.

“What we are witnessing in Gaza is a very serious social situation, with very high levels of poverty, and very high levels of desperation, frustration, and anger…” Philippe Egger, a senior ILO official, told reporters.

The situation has been aggravated by sharp hikes in food prices which have seen the consumer price index post steep increases in the order of 10 percent, 15 percent and up to 20 percent in the price of basic food staples, said the ILO official.

Egger, a Swiss national and a member of the ILO expert fact-finding mission, which in April visited the occupied territories, Israel, Egypt, and Syria, summed-up as follows: “The situation is appalling from all respects…. How much can human beings bare such situations? There must be a limit.”

The report, “The Situation of Workers of the Occupied Arab Territories,” and which also includes the Golan, is to be presented to Labor ministers during the ILO’s annual meeting which begins in Geneva on May 28.

Juan Somavia, ILO director-general, in a preface to the 45-page report states the devastation of military action, coupled with the continuing fine net of restrictions on movement: “There is no doubt that economic and social hardship is mounting.”

The ILO said approximately 80 percent of the population in Gaza, or 1.3 million people, is now dependent on food aid, and 33 percent in the West Bank, or 700 thousand people and noted “Extreme poverty was 40 percent of the population in Gaza and 19 percent in the West Bank in November.”

The agency also concludes the prospects on the employment front “remain bleak.”

The unemployment rate in the West Bank and Gaza combined stood at 22 percent in 2007, compared to 24 percent in 2006, the report notes but also stipulates there was a huge differential between the two areas, with unemployment at 30 percent in Gaza and 18 percent in the West Bank.

“All private sector activity in Gaza has virtually stopped, or disappeared, because of the economic siege, preventing any flow of goods into or out of Gaza,” said Egger, who is deputy director of the office of the ILO chief.

He said most private sector activity in Gaza “has virtually closed down” except possibly for bakeries, taxis, and very informal small-scale activities.

“Most employers we have spoken with in Gaza have either closed their activities or have wanted to relocate to the West Bank.”

The ILO report says that of the 3,900 industrial establishments that existed in Gaza in June 2007 that employed about 35,000 workers, 96 percent have been forced to close.

“By March 2008, only 130 working establishments remained employing 1,300 workers and operating at a fraction of regular capacity,” it said.

The ILO said at the end of 2007 there were 66,000 Palestinian workers entering daily into Israel and Israeli settlements. This is substantially less than the estimated 140,000 Palestinians who worked in Israel in the late 1990s.

“The employers of Israel are eager to get more such labor, because their economy is booming. They have a large construction sector and investments and they need more labor,” Egger said.

He said Israeli civilian authorities told the mission these Palestinian workers “presented no major security problem,” but stressed that, from their point of view, the continuous attacks particularly in Gaza, and the firing of rockets is a major concern for Israel.

The report outlines that in 2007 the average per capita Gross Domestic Product in the occupied Palestinian territories stood at $1,178, which was 27 percent lower than in 1999 and that in 2006 the combined average incomes of Egypt, Jordan and Syria were 40 percent higher than in the occupied Palestinian territories compared with 1997 when they were almost on par.

“The causes of this massive economic decline is not globalization, it’s not cyclones, it’s not drought, it’s not climate change, its military occupation,” said Egger.



Comment by Rocco Caputo — May 26th, 2008 @ 3:04 AM

We’re a tired old bunch, but we’re here.

Comment by Namrud — June 7th, 2008 @ 3:27 PM

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