The right to work freely and safely is a basic human need of every person. Article 23(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”.

This principle has been confirmed by many conventions, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Article 6 recognises the right to work, defined as the opportunity of everyone to gain their living by freely chosen or accepted work.

However, many barriers prevent Palestinians from fully enjoying their right to work. They face discrimination in employment, wages, and working conditions.

1. Discrimination against Palestinian Israelis

  • Although they make up 20% of the population, Palestinian Israelis represent only 6% of public employees in civil service jobs.
  • Discriminatory hiring policies leave thousands of Palestinian Israeli graduates jobless every year: In a 2010 survey, 83% of Israeli businesses in the main professions admitted being opposed to hiring Palestinian Israeli graduates.
  • And even when government bodies appoint Palestinian Israelis, it is in lower ranking positions: The absence of Palestinian Israelis in key roles means that they have no say in the decision-making processes and no influence on national policy.

2. Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories: oppressive permit system and blockade

  • Because of the occupation, the Palestinian economy can’t develop itself and provide sufficient and profitable work opportunities for Palestinians in the West Bank. The only option left to tens of thousands of Palestinians for earning a living is work within Israel, either with a work permit from Israeli authorities or illegally.
  • Israel alone issues the identity cards that determine the ability of Palestinians to work and their freedom of movement.
  • Workers with permits who can enter Israel by checkpoints have to face harsh conditions of overcrowding, queues, and humiliation during inspection.

 image(Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Associated Press)

  • Workers without permits who enter Israel illegally on a daily basis to earn a living are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and live in constant fear.
  • A large proportion of the Palestinians employed in illegal Israeli settlements, particularly in agricultural work, are paid only 70/90 shekels per day (£12/£15) when the minimum wage is 172 shekels per day (£29.50).
    [1] They are also vulnerable to exploitation.
  • In Gaza, the blockade has resulted in a dramatic increase in the levels of poverty and unemployment (the unemployment rate reached 55% after the latest assault). Work opportunities are extremely rare and for those who do work, there are risks of injury or even death: Israel’s attacks against Palestinian fishermen, who do not pose any threat to Israeli soldiers and who are trying to secure a living, occur on a regular basis.

3. Palestinians in Lebanon – An institutionalized discrimination

Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from discriminatory labour laws and face precarious working conditions and economic hardship. 

image(Thanks to Visualizing Palestine)

  • They have been barred from dozens of professions, including medicine, law and engineering for more than 60 years because they are still defined as foreigners. 
  • Most Palestinian refugees are forced into precarious work.
  • Only 2% have an official work permit and only 20% have a written contract.
  • 95% don’t have health insurance, despite contributing to the National Social Security Fund.

Interpal is running an on-going advocacy campaign, each month raising awareness of the rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that are denied to Palestinians. We encourage all our supporters and donors to write to their local MP and demand that the latter supports the fundamental right of Palestinians to work in a free and secure environment.


[1] ‘Rampant employment discrimination against Palestinian workers in Israel’ – Electronic Intifada http://electronicintifada.net/content/rampant-employment-discrimination-against-palestinian-workers-israel/8837