According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.
4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine
- Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
- Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
- Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
- Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.
A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”
In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.
– Caterina Rossi