Poverty, unemployment worsen in Israeli-occupied Arab territories – UN report

26 May 2006 –

Poverty and unemployment continued to worsen in Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied by Israel despite a moderate economic upturn last year, according to a new United Nations report issued today covering the period before a new deterioration stemming from a suspension of aid after Hamas took over the Palestinian Government.

“Again, the worsening situation since the end of 2005 urgently requires every effort of the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Government and the international community to achieve decent work for women and men in the occupied territories,” the annual International Labour Organization (ILO) report says. “The development of a viable Palestinian economy must be a priority.”

While the economy rebounded moderately after a very sharp dip, 4 out of every 10 Palestinians were living under the official poverty line of less than $2.10 a day. The absolute number of the poor has risen from 600,000 in 1999 to 1.6 million in 2005.

Open unemployment reached 23.5 per cent. Counting people who were employed prior to the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000 but are neither employed nor actively seeking work, ILO estimates the jobless rate at 40.7 per cent. Moreover, every employed person supports an additional 5 persons.

The report is based on missions sent to the occupied territories, Israel and Syria earlier this year and covers the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Barriers to mobility for persons, goods and services within the West Bank and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank worsened in the latter half of 2005 and early 2006, it says.

Lifting those barriers, together with a viable trade regime with Israel and the world, are the two most important and pressing prerequisites to alleviate the crisis and promote decent work. Israel’s pullout from Gaza, an important event, has created potential for economic and social recovery but this is hampered by continuing difficulties for Palestinian exporters, the report adds.

As in previous years, it identifies discrimination against Arabs in favour of Israeli settlers in the occupied Syrian Golan as an ongoing concern.

Referring to an increase in violence, with casualties on both sides, the report concludes that, “security in all its aspects - physical, social and economic - in Israel, on the one hand, cannot be separated from the same security needs of the Palestinian people living in the occupied territories, on the other.”

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