Palestine Palestine

Statistical Snapshot



Long-standing occupation has had significant consequences for the living conditions of the Palestinian people and prospects for development. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the population in the Palestinian territories is estimated at 5.27 million by the end of 2021[1] while UNRWA estimates that more than 5  million Palestinians have been registered as refugees in areas of the West Bank and Gaza and in surrounding host countries - mostly in Jordan (2.2 million), Lebanon (475,075) and Syria (552,000).[2]


According to the 2020 Global Peace Index, Palestine held the position of the 21st least peaceful country worldwide ranking 143 out of 163 countries, with an economic cost of violence estimated at 19 percent of GDP in 2020.[3]


The COVID-19 pandemic struck a weakened economy that was suffering from deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions since 2018 with persistent fiscal deficits, high unemployment, increasing poverty, especially in Gaza, and unceasingly decreasing levels of international support.[4]

PCBS estimated that GDP growth at constant prices will increase by 2.4 percent in 2020, however figures were revised and the Palestinian economy’s losses following the outbreak of COVID-19 were estimated at US$ 2.5 billion till end-May, the equivalent of a decline of 13.5 percent of GDP.[1] One of the sharpest contractions in economic activity in Palestine— estimated by the IMF at -11 percent—this contraction is due to the combined effect of i) the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting severe economic slowdown, ii) the Palestinian Authority’s decision to halt almost all bilateral contacts with Israel, between May and November 2020, including refusing to accept the tax clearance revenues [1] that Israel collects on its behalf and, iii) the Palestinian Authority’s limited fiscal space and monetary policy tools.[4] The IMF projected a recovery of the economy in 2021 with growth returning to 5.7 percent in 2021.[5]


The political standoff with the Government of Israel over clearance revenues and the economic contraction have significantly reduced the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to pay salaries of public sector employees and deliver services and maintain social safety nets. While coordination with Israel was resumed by mid-November 2020 the impacts have not been fully assessed yet.[4]

The structure of the Palestinian economy has transformed dramatically over the last two decades. Growth has been mainly driven by the construction, retail and services sectors, while the manufacturing and agriculture sectors contracted by around 40 percent and 75 percent, respectively compared to the late 1990s. During the same period, the public service sector, mostly financed by donors, expanded by 60 percent.[4] GDP growth is also negatively affected by low exports — constrained by the ongoing trade restrictions and contributing to only 16 percent of GDP in 2020— and high imports, amounting to 51 percent of GDP in 2020.[4] The structural conditions of Israeli occupation have impeded the private sector, and thus generation of sufficient jobs to absorb entrants to the labor force.*


Palestine suffers from alarming unemployment rates and the outbreak of Covid-19 further impacted employment levels especially in sectors affected by lockdown and social distancing measures, namely tourism, restaurants, construction, and for workers that cross to Israel.[4] In Gaza, 43 percent of the labor force were unemployed by the end of 2020, while the West Bank recorded an unemployment rate of 15 percent. Overall, the unemployment rate for the Palestinian territories reached 23.4 percent at the end of 2020, with unemployment being particularly high among women at 40.1 percent – compared to 22.5 percent for men[1]– and youth at 42.1 percent, reaching a dramatic 70 percent among female youth.[6] Palestinian refugees also suffer from high unemployment rates reaching 56 percent in Lebanon.[7]


As per The World Bank’s projections, the poverty rate has been constantly increasing since 2016 reaching 28.9 percent in 2020, compared to 22 percent in 2017.[4]

According to the latest 2017 household survey, the proportion of poor households in Gaza reached 53 percent compared to 38.8 percent according to the 2011 household survey while it decreased from 17.8 percent in 2011 to 14 percent in 2017 in the West Bank.[1] In 2021, the proportion of poor households is projected to increase from 53 to 64 percent in Gaza and to double in the West Bank, increasing from 14 to 30 percent.[4] Similarly, Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon face deteriorating living conditions, with a poverty rate of 66 percent.[8]


Poverty is compounded by significant shortages of clean water, electricity as well as access to sanitation, education and health care. In particular, Gaza’s health system cannot cope with increasing needs; Israeli authorities granted medical exit access to one in five applications after the 2018–2019 Gaza border protests, and acquiring a permit became increasingly difficult following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the related travel restrictions.[9] In 2021, an estimated 2.4 million Palestinians, around half of the population, including 1.4 million Palestine refugees, will require humanitarian assistance; while about 1.8 million Palestinians, or one third of all households, are currently considered severely or moderately food insecure.[9][10][11]

In Gaza, 1.9 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and 68 percent of households are food insecure. Electricity supply increased from 6.6 hours in 2018 to 12.1 hours in 2020 on average. In the West Bank, 20 percent of the population lack access for safe water or poor water quality. Across Palestine, over 520,000 school-age children face challenges in accessing quality education, while 70 percent of UNRWA schools and 63 percent of the Ministry of Education schools operate on a double or triple-shift system in Gaza.[10] In May 2021, the situation got even more alarming in Gaza following the bombardments and excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers resulting in a significant increase in the number of casualties and significant damages in the infrastructure.


As for COVID-19, there were 333,373 confirmed cases between January 3, 2020 and May 20, 2021, with 2,728 deaths reported deaths. As of April 25, 2021 there were 412,678 administered vaccine doses.[12] Palestine is one of 20 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region which are expected to receive a total of 46 to 56 million additional doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines during the first half of 2021 as part of COVAX Facility.[13] In April, Ministry of Health announced that the cabinet approved the purchase of 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and Sputnik vaccines.[14]




This overview was last updated in May 2021. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.



[1] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). 2021. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 21 May 2021].
[2] The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].
[3] Institute for Economics and Peace. 2020. Global Peace Index: Measuring Peace in a Complex World. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 May 2021].
[4] The World Bank. 2021. Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (English). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 May 2021].

[5] International Monetary Fund (IMF). April 2021. World Economic Outlook.  [ONLINE] Available at: april-2021 [Accessed 25 May 2021].
[6] International Labor Organization. 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].
[7] United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Lebanon. 2020. Palestinian Programme. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].

[8] Open democracy. March 2020. What the coronavirus outbreak means for thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. [ONLINE] available at: [Accessed 25 May 2021].

[9] UNCTAD. July 2019. Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 May 2021].
[10] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). December 2019. 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 May 2021].
[11] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2021, Global Humanitarian Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].

[12] World Health Organization. May 2021. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. [ONLINE] Available at:  [Accessed 21 May 2021].

[13]  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb. February 2021. Glimmer of hope: COVID-19 vaccines roll out in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].

[14] Ministry of Health, Palestine. April 2021. Minister of Health: 4.5 million doses of Coronavirus vaccines will arrive soon. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 May 2021].

* In 2019, Israel deducted approximately $138 million of the Palestinian Authority’s clearance revenue that constitutes up to 65 percent of the total revenue of the Palestinian Government.[1]

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Data Highlights

  • 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.

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