Both Palestinians living in the occupied territories and as citizens of Israel face regular violations of their right to work. Systematic discrimination against Palestinian employees in Israel and harsh conditions faced by Palestinians in the occupied territories – including exploitative work conditions in settlements, the deliberate stagnation of the Palestinian economy, and the lack of freedom of movement – have created a situation in which the right to work is not fulfilled for the Palestinian people.
A history of foreign control over the Palestinian economy under the British, Jordanians, and Israelis has stunted its growth.1 Even in 1994 when the Palestinian Authority (PA) ostensibly took control of the Palestinian economy after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the labour market that was handed over to it proved to be difficult to develop due to Israeli control over imports and exports, manufacturing permits, and access to resources. In other words, formal Palestinian “autonomy” was, in reality, a continuation of dependence, with Israel maintaining ultimate dominance over the Palestinian economy.2 The results of this today include poor work conditions, low female labour force participation, weak unions, and low standards of occupational safety.3
Palestinians living in the occupied territories who wish to work in Israel are restricted to certain sectors due to the Israeli permit system, predominantly agriculture and construction, resulting in lack of choices and stunted professional advancement. There are even age, gender and family status restrictions placed on obtaining these work permits.4 Palestinian citizens of Israel are also often faced with Israeli companies that have discriminatory hiring policies, such as requirements to have served in the Israeli military.5
In the occupied territories, restrictions on movement undermine the ability of Palestinians to even access their work places, and the restriction on land access for Palestinians means a significant amount of land in the West Bank which could be used for agricultural purposes is off-limits and un-used.6 Due to the obstacles on movement and the unsatisfactory condition of the Palestinian economy, many Palestinians seek work in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians working on these settlements have been found to be paid below the Israeli minimum wage, with no access to required benefits, and there have even been reports of child labour.7
In Gaza, the incapacitated state of the economy as a result of the blockade and repeated military assaults has all but made the right to work a luxury. As of November 15, 2017, the unemployment rate in Gaza was 46.6 percent. For people ages 15 to 29, the unemployment rate was 64.9 percent and for women, the unemployment rate was highest at 71 percent.8