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Palestinians prefer to work in Israel rather than PA due to higher salaries, better conditions, and benefits

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |

Many Palestinian workers prefer to work in Israel rather than in the PA. Hoping to improve their income and living standards, Palestinians leave their local job market and come to Israel, mostly to work in the construction sector.

They make this decision due to the higher salaries in Israel, the more orderly conditions, and the benefits. Moreover, receiving salaries in the PA after the job has been done also proves difficult at times, as one Palestinian construction worker explained:

“Musa Suleiman, 49, from the town of Dir Balut west of Salfit has worked in the construction sector in the Palestinian [job] market. Three years ago, he decided to leave to work in the Israeli market.

Suleiman said: ‘I learned the trade from my father who was a builder, and slowly I mastered construction and became skilled… But the low salary here among us and the high [salary] in Israel caused me to leave to work there, with the hope that I will be able to improve my income… The salary here is low, and collecting it is liable to last months or years after the work has been completed, following foot-dragging and splitting into payments… Many workers work in the market of the occupation state (Israel) [parentheses in source]. Also the work hours are limited, the rights are clear, and there are payments to which we are eligible.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2022]

Acting Director of the General Administration to Regulate Work Outside (of the PA areas) in the PA Ministry of Labor Abd Al-Karim Merdawi stressed the different rights workers enjoy in Israel as additional reasons for Palestinian workers to change job location:

The central factor that is making the Israeli job market attractive for Palestinian workers is the high salary in the Israeli market, which causes workers here among us to stream to work in the Israeli market…

The social insurance, rights, and savings deposits that a ‘regularized’ Palestinian worker, in other words one who has an [Israeli work] license, receives also constitute an attractive factor.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2022]

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average salary of Palestinian workers in the construction sector in Israel is more than double the salary they get in the PA:

“According to the PCBS, in 2021 the average monthly salary of workers in the construction sector in the West Bank was 3,193 [Israeli] shekels, as opposed to 7,627 shekels for a worker in the construction sector in the Israeli market.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2022]

Palestinian Media Watch has documented similar statements about why Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers.

The following is a longer excerpt of the report cited above:

Headline: “The loss of skilled workers – an existential challenge for the Palestinian construction sector”

“Ever since he was little, Musa Suleiman, 49, from the town of Dir Balut west of Salfit has worked in the construction sector in the Palestinian [job] market. Three years ago, he decided to leave to work in the Israeli market.

Suleiman said: ‘I learned the trade from my father who was a builder, and slowly I mastered construction and became skilled… But the low salary here among us and the high [salary] in Israel caused me to leave to work there, with the hope that I will be able to improve my income.’

Suleiman, who provides for a family of eight, added: ‘What caused me to seek work there (Israel) [parentheses in source] is the desire to improve my family’s living standards. The salary here is low, and collecting it is liable to last months or years after the work has been completed, following foot-dragging and splitting into payments.’

Suleiman noted: ‘After the skilled workers left to work in the Israeli market and the contractors and customers began to discover that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the Palestinian market, they got to know our value and the salary increased by a certain amount, but it is still low compared to what we receive there. Therefore, many workers work in the market of the occupation state (Israel) [parentheses in source]. Also the work hours are limited, the rights are clear, and there are payments to which we are eligible.’ ...

According to [the statistics of] the [Palestinian] Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in 2021, 14.1% of all the workers in Palestine work in Israel and the settlements – 18.8% of [the workers] from the West Bank and 0.1% [of the workers] from the Gaza Strip…

According to the PCBS, in 2021 the average monthly salary of workers in the construction sector in the West Bank was 3,193 [Israeli] shekels, as opposed to 7,627 shekels for a worker in the construction sector in the Israeli market.

Acting Director of the General Administration to Regulate Work Outside [of the PA areas] in the [PA] Ministry of Labor Abd Al-Karim Merdawi noted that the central factor that is making the Israeli job market attractive for Palestinian workers is the high salary in the Israeli market, which causes workers here among us to stream to work in the Israeli market…

The social insurance, rights, and savings deposits that a ‘regularized’ Palestinian worker, in other words one who has an [Israeli work] license, receives also constitute an attractive factor…

Merdawi also noted that the regional markets around us are closed to the Palestinian worker other than Israel, which can be reached easily compared to the difficulty in other external markets. He emphasized that all these issues have made the Israeli market attractive for Palestinian workers.

The rate of Palestinian workers in the construction sector in Israel and the settlements is 67% of the Palestinian workforce [inside Israel].

Merdawi emphasized that the construction sector is what Israel focuses on most in order to attract Palestinian workers, because it is the most dangerous and many cases of death are recorded in it. This is while 27% of the Palestinian workforce in Israel works in the fields of agriculture, industry, services, hospitality, and health.

The Ministry of Labor documented 37 cases of death among the ranks of the Palestinian workers in 2021; in other words, 97% of the cases of death in this sector are of Palestinian workers from the West Bank and from the occupied Interior (i.e., Palestinian term for Israel). This is while the foreign workers constitute 2% of those killed, and the Israeli workers constitute 1% (sic., the figures do not add up, since if 37 deaths constitute 97% then even one Israeli death would be more than 1%).

Merdawi explained that the Israeli worker avoids work in the construction sector because the danger in it is high, and therefore they attract Palestinian workers to it…

According to the Ministry of Labor’s statistics, the number of workers in the Israeli market is more than 160,000, of whom 90,000 have a license, 30,000 are working in the Israeli settlements, 40,000 have various permits such as commercial and special needs [permits], and also those who enter Israel through breaches in the racial separation wall.

According to the PCBS statistics for 2021, the number of workers in Israel and the settlements is 145,500. (number according to original text -Ed.)”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2022]