Minimum Wage in Palestine

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions is calling for a minimum wage increase for all workers. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, held the first national conference on social dialogue in February 2021. At the conference, the Palestinians raised the minimum wage for all workers from 1450 shekels to 1880 shekels. This raise is a step in the right direction, but it must go further.

Study

The study on Palestinian workers’ wage rates is an important contribution to the debate on the minimum wage in Palestine. The researchers from the Institute for Work and Social Sciences (IWS) said that the minimum wage was introduced in the 1990s to address class differentiation. But this policy, they argue, has led to social and economic polarization, and that the minimum wage has weakened the role of women in society. The study’s authors argue that the Palestinian labour market is far more unequal than many Palestinian communities.

In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released data pertaining to the number of workers in the private sector. The survey found that the average monthly salary was NIS 3,000, a marginal increase from the previous year. The minimum wage was NIS 1,000. The report also said that 88.6% of the private sector employed Palestinians. But despite the higher minimum wage, some employees were still receiving less than the minimum wage. The difference between these two numbers does not equal one.

As a result, workers in the West Bank have been affected by the deteriorating economy. Many workers were forced to take unpaid leaves or were even threatened with dismissal. Meanwhile, some employers changed the nature of work, making the minimum wage ineffective for those on monthly wages. In Bethlehem, for example, hotel employees were forced to paint sidewalks or repair them. Workers in Ramallah, on the other hand, were forced to work on per diem jobs because they couldn’t afford a monthly wage.

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate in Palestine is high, with over 50% of wage employees unemployed. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have the highest unemployment rate in the region. The average weekly work schedule for wage employees in Palestine is 41 hours. Unemployment is highest for people under the age of 25, though there are many exceptions to this rule. Unemployment in Palestine is also higher than the national average. According to the International Labor Organization, Palestine’s unemployment rate is almost double the national average.

The occupation of Palestine continues to stifle economic activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The occupation restricts Palestinian economic activity by banning them from most of the occupied territory. Further, the occupation controls vast tracts of land, hindering investment and the growth of the Palestinian economy. Further, the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank delays reconstruction of the territory. The unemployment rate is a bleak picture.

The Palestinian government must reconsider its minimum wage. At the moment, the minimum wage in Palestine is six55 shekels. This is less than half of the legal minimum wage of 1880 shekels. This is a severe disadvantage for Palestinian women, who are often excluded from the labor force. Furthermore, 81 percent of Gaza-based workers are paid less than the minimum wage, while only seven percent work in the West Bank.

Tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of Palestinians

Israeli lawmakers have approved a bill withholding tax revenues from Palestinians, equal to the monthly stipends paid to security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed during violent encounters with Israel. The Palestinian Finance Minister said the bill will result in a loss of more than $1 billion a month, which will hurt the Palestinian economy. This is the third time Israel has withheld tax revenue from Palestinians.

Since June, the Palestinian Authority has refused to accept Israel’s handover of tax revenue collected on their behalf. The move was controversial, and Palestinians largely ignored the transfer because of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suspended plan to annex the West Bank. The Finance Ministry confirmed that Israel had transferred the money to the Palestinian Authority, and that Israel would deduct 600 million shekels from Palestinian tax revenues in the process.

Israeli government officials explain that they collect tax revenues from Palestinian imports in order to maintain stability in the West Bank. The deductions have been criticized as “piracy” because the Palestinian Authority (PA) refuses to accept them. The PA, however, has consistently refused to accept the Israeli deductions, which they call illegal. Even so, the Israeli government routinely withholds the full amount of tax revenues from the Palestinians to support prisoners’ families.

Freedom of movement

Palestinians in the West Bank are often forced to work in Israeli settlements, despite the fact that the occupation of Palestine makes the occupation impossible. Thousands of Palestinians have climbed the wall or hidden in their vehicles in order to obtain a permit and find work. These workers receive lower wages and face harsher working conditions. Israeli authorities have cracked down on these undocumented workers in recent years, but the situation continues to worsen. Israeli settlements dominate large parts of the West Bank, including Greater Jerusalem and areas near Tel Aviv. Israeli settlement building has also increased substantially in the West Bank since the last year.

While these measures are not intended to limit Palestinian movement, they restrict Palestinians’ access to basic resources and perpetuate the racial separation between Palestinians and Israelis. Understanding these restrictions is essential to recognizing how seriously Israeli occupation affects the life of the average Palestinian. For example, Palestinians have restricted access to East Jerusalem, and it is increasingly difficult for them to travel north to south within the West Bank.

Israeli restrictions on movement have also hindered civil society activity. Israeli officials have regularly shut down Islamist organizations. Activists who criticize PA leadership face harassment, including physical violence. Israel also lacks basic accountability mechanisms. Further, journalists have been subject to harassment and ostracization by the Israeli military. And while Palestinians in the West Bank have limited rights of assembly, they are allowed to conduct political activities.

Unions

The Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Shaher Saad, said that the new minimum wage reflects the rising Consumer Price Index. The Palestinian Wage Committee approved the increase in the presence of Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla. The minimum wage in Palestine is tied to the Consumer Price Index, which increased by 1.43% in 2015 and 2014.

The current Palestinian labor laws mix the Jordanian and Egyptian codes. In the West Bank, Palestinian workers are allowed to work full shifts without pay for up to six months with parental consent. A draft of the Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority (PA) states that workers may be paid in goods and wages. This contradicts every international labor law and benefits the Palestinian landowners. Despite the Palestinian laborers’ demands, Israeli policymakers seem content to ignore these calls.

The Palestinian labour system is ineffective and inefficient. Unions in Palestine are rarely organized by districts. While claiming to represent workers, they are usually run by factions or other parties. The Gaza Federation, for example, has an executive of twelve people (plus Bayari) who nominally represent six trade syndicates. The executive members are paid by the Gaza Federation and are not actually working in the trades they represent.

Right of return

The right of return to Palestine is an internationally recognized principle that was first articulated in the UN General Assembly resolution 194 in December 1948. The resolution calls for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel within the pre-1967 borders of a two-state solution. Though the chances of this right being fully implemented are remote, this does not make it any less just. The question is: how is the right to return implemented in reality?

The settlers imposed such restrictions on the Palestinian population that they are now facing a major shortage of workers. This has led to an enormous amount of poverty and unemployment in the occupied West Bank, and many Palestinian families are forced to send their children to work in illegal settlements to earn money. In many cases, these workers are exploited by Israeli settler employers who rely on them. Despite this, Israel is unwilling to do anything about it.

Israel imposed the law in the West Bank without the consent of the Palestinians. However, the National Unity Government has not yet acted on implementing it in the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, it is estimated that 63% of workers earn below the minimum wage, compared to an average of 1100 NIS in the West Bank. Moreover, the Palestinian workers are forced to work on land confiscated by Israel and allocated to the settlements.

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