The population of Palestine in 2015 is estimated at 4.7 million, 75% of which live in urban areas. The long-standing military occupation of Palestine has taken a heavy toll on the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the prospects for the development of the country. From 1967 until 1993, the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and West Bank were under complete Israeli control. Following the Oslo Peace Accords, some areas of the West Bank were handed over to Palestinian National Authority, along with 60% of the Gaza Strip. By the beginning of 2015, the number of Palestinian refugees increased up to 5.1 million compared to 3.8 million refugees in 2000. The Palestinian population in Palestine is growing at around 2.7% per year since 2000, with a fertility rate of over 4 children per woman; the population is very young with 91.8% of its population below 30 years old.
The life expectancy increased from 70.7 years in 2000 to 73 years in 2015, while the maternal mortality rate declined from 72 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 45 per 100,000 live births in 2015.
In 2011, 25.8% of the Palestinian population lived below the national poverty line, noting that no other updated figure on poverty is available. As of September 2015, there were 1.9 million Palestinian, around 42 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the prolonged Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Palestine’s adult literacy rate increased from 92.3% in 2004 to 99.3% in 2015, compared to an average of 80.5% in the Arab countries. The gross enrollment rate for primary education leveled at 94.9% in 2014, with a Gender Parity Index (GPI) of 1.0. The gross tertiary education rate grew from 23.9% in 2000 to 44% in 2014, the second highest in the region after Saudi Arabia, and the GPI also rose to 1.6 in 2014, up from 0.9 in 2000.
Palestine is a lower-middle-income country with a GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, constant 2011 prices) of Int$ 20.8 billion in 2015, and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of Int$ 5,070 in 2014. Services constituted the highest share of GDP at 20.6% of GDP in 2014. The Palestinian economy witnessed a recession in 2014 with GDP contraction estimated at -0.4%, down from 2.2% in 2013, following the Israeli military operations in Gaza. Reconstruction efforts provided a modest boost to the economy, and the GDP grew by 2.9% in 2015. Political uncertainty, shortfalls in donor aid, constituting around 26.9% of total revenues, and fiscal instability ‒ with the Israeli control of the customs clearance revenues, at around 69.2% of total revenues ‒ remain major risks to the economic outlook. In 2015, the overall cash balance (including external budgetary support) scored USD 66.8 million. Inflation remained at low levels of 1.4% in 2015.
The international trade-to-GDP ratio in Palestine decreased from 88 in 2000 to 79 in 2014. Between 2005 and 2013, services exports and imports have doubled reaching 0.6 billion US Dollar and 1 billion US Dollar in 2013, respectively. Palestinian exports mainly consist of manufactured goods, agricultural products, and raw materials. Palestinian main imports are mineral fuels and lubricants, food and livestock, manufactured goods, vehicles, and electronics.
Trade between Palestine and Arab countries amplified over the last fifteen years. Palestinian exports to Arab countries increased from 29 million US Dollar in 2000 to 121 million US Dollar in 2015; similarly, imports from Arab countries rose from 40 million US Dollar to 343 million US Dollar.
Palestine is not a member of the WTO. It joined the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) in 1997, but only began to apply the reductions of tariffs in 2005. It has signed trade agreements with Jordan (1995), Egypt (1997) and Turkey (2004). In 1998, the EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) signed with the Palestinian Authority a free trade agreement that entered into force in 1999. An Interim Association Agreement on Trade and Cooperation was concluded between the EU and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in 1997. An Agreement for further liberalization of agricultural and fishery products entered into force in 2012.
Palestine has one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the Arab region due to a very low participation of women. In 2002, the labor force participation rate was as low as 37.9%. It increased to 45.8% in 2015, registering 71.9% for men compared to only 19.1% for women. The country also witnessed a rapid increase in the labor force over the last 15 years, almost doubling from 695 thousand people in 2000 to 1,299 thousand people in 2015. Job creation was insufficient to absorb this increase in the labor force, leading to high levels of unemployment. After the Second Intifada, the unemployment rate has significantly increased between 2000 and 2001 (from 14.3% to 25.3%), it then remained high, fluctuating between 20 and 31%, but never reached the pre-intifada levels. In 2015, unemployment rate registered 25.9%, 22.5% for men and 39.2% for women. The unemployment rate was especially high among youth, also increasing from 20.9% in 2000 to 34.6% in 2001 and reaching 41.7% in 2002. In2015, youth unemployment reached 39.8%. It was much higher for women at 54.2% compared to 37.3% for men between the age 15 and 24.
Palestine doesn’t hold any proved hydrocarbon reserves yet. In 2000, the Gaza Marine natural gas was discovered indicating the existence of hydrocarbons, estimated at around 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources. This amount was enough to supply the country with energy and also have a surplus for export, but this field remained unexploited due to political disputes over it.
Palestinians continue to face severe water shortages with the decline in access to improved water sources to 58.4% in 2015, down from 90.9% in 2000.
This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016.