The long-standing occupation crisis continues in Palestine inflicting significant damage to the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the prospects for the development of the country. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population in the Palestinian territories is estimated at 4.9 million[1], while the number of Palestinian refugees is estimated at 5.4 million, up from 3.8 million in 2000.[2]


Protests in Gaza ahead of the Nakba day and turmoil since the relocation of the United States’ embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018, mark the most severe escalation in recent years. Enduring constraints and political uncertainty continue to damage growth prospects, aggravated by a considerable decrease in aids to the Palestinian Authorities and revenue losses. Real GDP growth reached 2 percent in mid-2018, down from 3.1 percent in 2017 and is projected to further decline hovering around 1.7-1.9 percent between 2018-2020. The situation is particularly alarming in Gaza with its economy shrinking by 6 percent in the first quarter of 2018 and with a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian and security situation.[3] Large external imbalances persist as restrictions impede development and add to vulnerabilities. Continued consolidation efforts by the Palestinian Authorities helped to contain the overall fiscal deficit stable but large at around 8 percent of GDP, as spending cuts counterbalanced the decline in revenues.[4]

Weaker growth and demographic pressures substantially worsened unemployment and poverty. Palestine suffers from the highest unemployment rate in the world reaching 28.4 percent in 2017. Unemployment is particularly high among women at 48.2 percent –compared to 23.2 percent for men— and youth at 44.7 percent, reaching a staggering 70.8 percent among female youth.Unemployment prospects are much worse in Gaza, where around 44.4 percent of the labour force are unemployed compared to 18.7 percent in West Bank.[1]


According to the 2017 household survey, the poverty rate in Palestine is high at 29.2 percent. In Gaza, it increased since the 2011 household survey from 38.8 percent to 53 percent. Poverty rate is much lower in West Bank, decreasing from 17.8 percent in 2011 to 13.9 percent in 2017.[1]


Following the economic challenges and political uncertainty, the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians continue to worsen, including access to food, electricity, clean water and decent education and medical services and healthcare. By the end of 2018, 2.5 million Palestinian, around half of the population, including  1.4 million Palestine refugees need humanitarian assistance. 1.7 million Palestinian or 33 percent of all households are severely and moderately food insecure. In Gaza, 1.9 million people suffer from power cuts of 18-20 hours a day and only 10.5 percent of Palestinians have access to safe drinking water through the public water network. 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.[5]

This overview was last updated in February 2019. 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). December 2018. Statistical yearbook of Palestine 2018. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 11 February 2019].
[2] The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 February 2019].
[3] World Bank. October 2018. World Development Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 February 2019].
[4] International Monetary Fund (IMF). July 2018. IMF staff concludes visit to West Bank and Gaza.  [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 February 2019].
[5] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). December 2018. 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 February 2019].

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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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