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Labour market and livelihoods in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

ILO launches funding appeal to respond to critical needs of Palestinian workers and employers

Funding sought to implement ILO’s three-phase programme to provide immediate relief to impacted groups and support longer-term job and business recovery and social protection.

News | 09 November 2023
GENEVA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization has launched a funding appeal for its programme to respond to the effects of the current conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the Palestinian labour market.

The appeal identifies a financial requirement of US$20 million to fund the ILO’s three-phase response programme, set to provide both immediate relief and longer-term assistance to mitigate the effects of the crisis on hundreds of thousands of affected Palestinian workers and employers.

“The hostilities have resulted in – and continue to cause – both a tragic loss of human life, and an unprecedented loss of livelihoods, jobs, income, businesses, and civilian infrastructure,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo at a meeting with development partners held in Geneva to launch the appeal.

“At the ILO, we are first and foremost concerned with the protection of all workers and employers who have been affected by this crisis, including workers from Gaza working in Israel, and all health, UN and aid workers who are providing vital assistance on the ground,” Houngbo said at the meeting, held on the sidelines of the 349th Session of the ILO Governing Body.

“The magnitude of the response needed from the international community, and the current operational constraints, are beyond what has ever been seen before in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he said.

The ILO’s first bulletin on the impact of the conflict on the labour market and livelihoods in the Territory found that at least 61 per cent of employment in Gaza – and almost a quarter in the West Bank – has been lost since 7 October. This translates into daily labour income losses of US$16 million in the OPT, the assessment found.

Houngbo outlined in the meeting how, since the hostilities started on 7 October, entire neighbourhoods in Gaza have been destroyed, infrastructure has been severely damaged, businesses have closed, large-scale internal displacement has occurred, and the lack of water, food and fuel are crippling economic activity.

In addition, almost 6,000 workers from Gaza who were working in Israel before the current conflict erupted and are presently stranded in the West Bank face dire conditions, while UN health and aid workers who are providing vital assistance on the ground face extremely dangerous circumstances.

Access measures enforced by Israel across the OPT have effectively revoked access rights, as workers and traders with valid permits are prevented from entering Israel and East Jerusalem through any checkpoints. Trade restrictions for vital goods transiting from Israeli ports to Palestinian destinations have also been applied – further jeopardizing the basic needs of families as well as the economy at large.

Even prior to the current conflict, the situation in the Gaza Strip, blockaded since 2006, was particularly dire. Gazans have long grappled with persistently high rates of poverty, vulnerability and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, which stood at 46.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2023.

“The already huge losses our research has identified are only projected to increase if the conflict and tragic humanitarian crisis continue, with repercussions that will be felt for many years to come,” said ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat at the meeting.

“Our response programme is set to provide immediate relief to affected workers and employers, assess the impact of the crisis on the labour market and livelihoods, and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and recovering lost jobs and businesses while providing social protection benefits,” Jaradat explained.

The ILO’s response programme to address the impact of the crisis on the Palestinian labour market and livelihoods is comprised of three phases.

The first, which is already underway, focuses on relief works. It entails providing immediate assistance such as emergency livelihood support schemes to Palestinian workers. The workers include Gazans who, having lost their jobs inside Israel following the outbreak of the current conflict, are stranded in the West Bank.

The ILO has mobilized its internal resources and already channelled around $2 million US dollars towards emergency relief interventions and preliminary data collection. It is also working on allocating further internal resources to implement its response plan.

The second stage – or review phase – entails data collection and impact analysis to help plan, prioritize and fine-tune interventions.

Finally, the recovery phase will focus on job creation through employment intensive infrastructure recovery and other means, as well as on social protection measures and recovery of jobs and businesses.