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ILO to Help Palestinians With Employment Programs - 2002-07-12

The International Labor Organization, ILO, said it plans to set up new employment programs in the Palestinian territories.

Worker, employer, and government representatives from the Palestinian territories attended the meeting. They told ILO officials the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is becoming desperate.

The Palestinian Authority's labor minister, Ghassan El-Khateeb, said one major problem is the Israeli curfew on 600,000 people in all Palestinian towns, cities, and refugee camps, except Jericho and East Jerusalem.

"The other policy is the closure policy which is confining 1.4 million Palestinians at the very moment in their villages, whereby they cannot leave their villages, consequently, they cannot reach their jobs. These two policies are preventing 78 percent of the labor force from reaching its work and consequently preventing those workers from earning their wages," Mr. Khateeb said.

He said the situation has pushed more than 50 percent of Palestinians below the poverty line. He said the West Bank and Gaza economy is on the edge of collapse.

The ILO said it will establish a new Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection. ILO expert, Samir Radwan said it will take several months to set up the program which will cost between three million and four million U.S. dollars.

He said the fund will have a number of functions. "The first function will be to help people get into self-employment, to help youth, in particular to get into the labor market, to be trained to be ready for the labor market, or to set up their own programs to help women as well. The whole issue of social security is a separate issue, which we are also looking at," Mr. Radwan said.

Mr. Radwan said the ILO also will continue a number of its long-standing training and rehabilitation projects for victims of violence.