High unemployment continues to grip Palestinians in the occupied territories, reaching an average of 35 per cent, the International Labour Office (ILO) said Tuesday in a new report.
A recent high-level mission to the area also found that "severe restrictions" on the movement of persons, goods and services were causing "severe losses in production, employment and income, the report added.
"The reality of life in the territories is one of strangulation of the economy." ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a preface to the report. "Poverty continues to grip Palestinian communities, relieved only by large-scale international assistance."
Unemployment in the last quarter of 2003 hit 20.7 per cent in the West Bank and 31.9 per cent in Gaza, a slight improvement over 2002, the report said, adding that close to 290,000 persons – 89 per cent of whom are men – were unemployed or discouraged from looking for work. It added "this suggests an expanded unemployment rate of 35.3 per cent, a number which would be even higher if women confined to their homes by necessity and not by choice were included".
The report said the actual number of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza working in Israel is highly dependent on the continuously changing Israeli restrictions on the movement of persons within the occupied territories and into Israel. Noting that "a valid work permit is no guarantee of actual employment, particularly for those workers who have to enter Israel to work", the report said restrictions on mobility continue to intensify because of the new West Bank separation wall.
"The delays, increased costs and loss of earnings that result from road closures, prolonged security checks and curfews hamper economic activity of all kinds, thus reducing family incomes," Mr. Somavia said. "No sustained recovery of the economy is possible while this situation prevails."
Nevertheless, the report also cited some improved mobility in the West bank, but in some areas the situation "clearly remains volatile". One out of three Palestinians said reaching their place of work was "difficult, very difficult or impossible" in March, compared to 50 per cent in August 2003. In Gaza Strip, 14.4 per cent said they had problems with mobility compared to nearly 30 per cent last August.
The ILO Mission concluded that, "development strategies for the Palestinian economy have to focus on rebuilding the internal labour market. As this will take time, a complementary strategy for Palestinian work in Israel and in other countries is necessary".
The report places special emphasis on the gender dimensions of the situation of workers, and highlights the role of Palestinian women in holding together families and communities. It added that development strategies for the Palestinian economy should "aim to realize the full productive capacity of women, given their high educational qualifications" and recommended the establishment of an inter-ministerial working group to develop a national women's employment strategy that would be integrated into the overall employment strategy of the Palestinian Authority. (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )