Gaza textile workers seek partnership with Israeli companies to tackle unemployment woes

Abd Al Raouf Abu Asi, a sewing worker in Gaza.
Abd Al Raouf Abu Asi, a sewing worker in Gaza. Copyright Euronews
By Josephine JolyEuronews
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A new chapter in the Palestinian-Israeli relationship brings together the textile workers in Gaza — where the unemployment rate is estimated to be around 55 per cent — and Israeli companies in need of cheap clothes manufacturers.

Since Hamas's takeover of Gaza in mid-2007, the Palestinian enclave has been in the midst of an unemployment crisis with half of the workforce looking for a job.


When Israel imposed a tight security perimeter around the area, the vast majority of the two million Palestinians saw their living conditions deteriorate.

Statistics of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions in Gaza indicate that 250,000 people are currently unemployed, corresponding to an estimated rate of 55 per cent.

In an indication of the depth of the unemployment crisis. 

More than 10,000 registrations for those wishing to obtain a work permit inside Israel were recorded on the first day of October 2021, amid estimates that the number of registered persons will exceed 100,000 at the end of the process.

"If I tried to get an opportunity to work inside Israel, it is forbidden, and I cannot travel anywhere else to work, therefore, I am forced to work here inside Gaza and accept any wage, whatever it is, even if it's so little, it's better than nothing," Abd Al Raouf Abu Asi, a Gazan sewing worker, told Euronews.

The wages of a worker inside Israel range from 300 to 500 shekels (€83-€139), while in Gaza salaries do not exceed 60 shekels per day (€16.6).

"The economic conditions are determining prices and wages. For example, we receive 8 shekels to sew a dress, but if it's made in the West Bank, the wage is 20 shekels, and in Israel, it is more than that," explained Alaa Jahjouh, owner of a sewing workshop.

Israel's interests in the cheap Gazan textile industry

Twenty-two years ago, before the Second Intifada, the number of factories operating in the sector of clothing and textiles was estimated at around 900, employing more than 36,000 workers, exporting their products into the Israeli market and the West Bank through private contracts.

But the sector was paralyzed as a result of the events of 2007 and the closure of border crossings.

Since the reopening of trade between Gaza and Israel in the summer of 2021, Tel Aviv has shown renewed interest in the nearby and cheap Gazan textile industry.

Many Israeli companies, especially clothing manufacturing companies — which have always depended on Gazan workers — have started opening up again to start manufacturing Israeli clothes inside Gaza.


This both answers to Israeli needs because of the wage difference between Gaza and Israel, but also Palestinian demand due to the lack of employment in Gaza, despite low wages.

However, experts and businessmen in Gaza have criticised the workers' tendency to work in Israel under "traders' permits", which allows the Israeli operator to manipulate workers' wages and evade their rights in the event of injury or death, and their entitlements related to insurance and end-of-service benefits.

Between the need for Israeli companies to increase profits and the need for workers in Gaza for job opportunities, it seems that the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is entering a new phase over a common interest.

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