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French Version

Failing Palestinian economy threatens dialogue with Israel

ILO report says half the population lives in poverty

The tough economic reality of life in the Palestinian territories could threaten the revival of dialogue with Israel, the United Nation's International Labor Office warned.

Despite an improved climate between the two sides, conditions for Palestinian workers and their families remain extremely hard, the ILO said in its regular report on the region.

While domestic output grew in 2004 following four years of recession in the Palestinian economy, the unemployment rate increased to 26 percent, reaching a record 224,000. The jobless total was not the only concern, the report said.

Fewer than half of all men - and only 10 percent of women - of working age are employed. As a result, every employed Palestinian supports six others.

However, 57 percent of all workers in the occupied territories received monthly wages that failed to lift a family of four out of poverty. Approximately 1.8 million Palestinians - about half the population - live in poverty, the report said.

The ILO study was based on missions sent to Israel, Palestinian areas and Syria.

"The economic situation of Palestinians must rapidly improve in order for them to continue to support the policy of dialogue and negotiation with Israel," the report said. One-third of Palestinians aged 15 to 24 years and over half of those aged 25 to 29 years were in "forced idleness" - neither working nor studying.

"Idleness among young people faced with military occupation makes a fertile breeding ground for extremism and violence," said the ILO.

"This situation requires urgent attention in the form of significant assistance in vocational training, business development and employment orientation specifically directed at young women and men."

Israeli security restrictions imposed since the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000 have continued to affect the number of Palestinians working in Israel, the report noted.

The average number of Palestinians working in Israel in 2004 was 54,000, down 5 percent from 2003.

An Israeli plan to reduce numbers of Palestinian workers in Israel to zero by 2008 could make matters worse, said the study.

However, employment in Israel is essential until the Palestinian economy can generate enough jobs at home, it said.

"Even with strong economic growth and employment creation in the coming years, the full absorption of 39,000 new yearly entrants into the labor market, plus a considerable reduction of existing unemployment, are a daunting task," it warned.

Amman,05 30 2005
The Daily Star
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