Do Palestinians have the lowest standard of living in the world?

It is not fair that you enjoy a good life while our brothers in Gaza endure the worst standard of living. Therefore, God willing, our attacks against you will continue as long as you maintain your support to Israel.

– Osama Bin Laden 1

Overview of the truth

One of the most frequently heard claims about Palestine is that they suffer from a standard of living comparable to the poorest of African states. To validate whether this is true we will explore four key areas:

  • Health of the Palestinians
  • Quality of life
  • Average income
  • Aid to Palestine

Health of the Palestinians

One way to measure the standard of living is by seeing how long people live on average – healthy people tend to live longer. When we explore life expectancy it would seem that Palestinians live to a ripe old age – Palestinian born today are expected reach 75 years of age. In terms of life expectancy Palestine ranks tenth out of twenty two Arab states. In contrast the average Somali Arab is unlikely to see their 52nd birthday. There are 132 countries in the world with lower life expectancies – so life expectancy is not a problem for the Palestinians.

Another indicator of standard of living is infant mortality rates (IMR) as this is a strong measure of the healthcare provided. Thankfully the overwhelming majority of Palestinian babies live beyond the age of one, as only 15 out of 1,000 die before the age of one. This gives Palestine the ninth lowest infant mortality rate in the Arab world. Tragically 100 out of 1,000 Somali babies are lost in their first year of life.

Country Life expectancy Infant mortality rate
Bahrain 78.6 9.7
Qatar 78.4 6.4
Kuwait 77.6 7.5
Lebanon 77.2 8
UAE 77.1 10.9
Morocco 76.5 24.5
Algeria 76.4 21.8
Libya 76 11.9
Tunisia 75.7 23.2
Palestine 75 15
Oman 75 14
Saudi Arabia 74.8 14.6
Jordan 74.1 15.7
Egypt 73.4 22.4
Iraq 71.4 37.5
Syria 68.4 15.8
Yemen 64.8 50.4
Comoros 63.6 65.3
Sudan 63.3 52.9
Djibouti 62.4 50.2
Mauritania 62.3 50.1
Somalia 51.6 100.1

Now it is no secret that their are some incredibly wealthy Arab states, so we’d expect long lives and low infant mortality rates. But what happens when we compare Palestine to some of the world’s most impoverished states?

Country Life expectancy Infant mortality rate
Palestine 75 14.9
Yemen 64.8 50.4
Comoros 63.6 65.3
Eritrea 63.5 38.4
Mauritania 62.3 56.1
Guinea 59.6 55.2
Burundi 59.5 63.4
Liberia 58.2 69.2
Sierra Leone 57.4 73.3
Somalia 51.6 100.1
Chad 49.4 90.3

There are 116 out of 224 countries in the world with a worse IMR, so it seems pretty conclusive that in terms of health the Palestinians are not even close to having lowest living standards. 2, 3

Quality of life

Perhaps you might argue that they may have their health, but the Palestinians live a miserable existence. Again the facts don’t agree, according to the 2012 Happy Planet Index, which is a survey conducted by the New Economics Forum to measure happiness around the world – Palestine was the third happiest Arab country and the 30th happiest in the world. Making Palestine happier than many developed countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia and Canada.4

  1. Algeria – 52.2
  2. Jordan – 51.7
  3. Palestine – 51.2
  4. Iraq – 49.2
  5. Tunisia – 48.3
  6. Morocco – 47.9
  7. Syria – 47.1
  8. Saudi Arabia – 46.0
  9. Yemen – 43.0
  10. Lebanon – 42.9
  11. Libya – 40.8
  12. Egypt – 39.6
  13. Sudan – 37.6
  14. Djibouti – 37.2
  15. Comoros – 36.5
  16. Mauritania – 32.3
  17. UAE – 31.8
  18. Kuwait – 27.1
  19. Qatar – 25.2
  20. Bahrain – 26.6

Another measure could be the Human Development Index (HDI), which is the United Nations comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of its member states. In this study 36% of the states perform worse than Palestine – including Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.5

Average income

An obvious measure of the standard of living is the economy (GDP) of a country, particularly when divided by how many people live in that country. If two people generate £100, they are richer than 10 people people that generate £100. In economics this calculation at a national level is called the GDP per-capita. When we compare the GDP per-capita of impoverished nations with Palestine, it is clear that at an individual level Palestine is far more affluent than many states. 6

  1. Palestine – $4,422
  2. Yemen – $2,518
  3. Mauritania – $2,061
  4. Chad – $1,687
  5. Sierra Leone – $1,407
  6. Comoros – $1,237
  7. Guinea – $1,080
  8. Eritrea – $729
  9. Liberia – $649
  10. Somalia – $578
  11. Burundi – $566

In fact when we look at the Palestinian economy it dwarves many nations. 40% of countries around the world have a lower GDP than Palestine (such as Kosovo, Iceland, Haiti, Moldova, Monaco, etc.). Some people mistakenly have a mental image of Palestine as an impoverished nation, which simply isn’t true. It is not rich, but it is disingenuous to compare it to the poverty of nations like Ethiopia and Eritrea – as the images below demonstrate.

Al-Mashtal Luxury Hotel in Gaza

Bank of Palestine in Ramallah

Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem

Grand Palace Hotel in Gaza

A Palestinian village in the West Bank

Movenpick Luxury Hotel in Ramallah

Former Headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem

Construction of the billion dollar Palestinian city of Rawabi

Aid to the Palestinians

Incredibly despite the relatively high Palestinian living standards, they are one of the largest recipients of international aid. Each year over a billion dollars flows across its borders, while nations living in abject poverty are all but ignored by the international community. Tragically nations like Eritrea which has a GDP PPP Per-Capita of a meager $729 receives a measly $134 million in aid – despite suffering from decades of war, mass poverty and a dictatorship accused of extrajudicial executions, torture, forced labour, rape and sexual servitude.7

Country Aid Aid per person
Palestine $1.8 billion $396
Liberia $571 million $136
Mauritania $408 million $107
Comoros $69 million $96
Somalia $905 million $89
Sierra Leone $440 million $74
Burundi $522 million $53
Chad $477 million $38
Yemen $660 million $28
Guinea $296 million $26
Eritrea $134 million $22


The purpose of this article is not to suggest the Palestinians have the highest standard of living in the world, such a claim would be a absurd. However, it is important to note that relative to the rest of the world the Palestinians benefit from a good standard of living. Unfortunately a disproportionate amount of international aid flows into Palestine, taking it away from far needier countries that are largely ignored by the international community.

  • Palestinians live very long lives and have access to great healthcare
  • Palestinians are happier than citizens of superpowers like the UK and USA
  • Palestine is one of the world’s largest recipients of aid – receiving approximately $2 billion each year
  • 40% of the world’s countries are poorer than Palestine
  • According the UN 36% of their member states have a worse development index


Expose more lies of Israeli discrimination:


1. Osama Bin Lade, Reported in the Al Arabiya News, 24/1/10
2. CIA World Factbook, 2014, Life expectancy at birth
3. CIA World Factbook, 2014, Infant mortality rate
4. 2012 Happy Planet Index, New Economics Forum
5. UN 2014 development report
6. GDP PPP, 2012 CIA Factboook
7. Global Humanitarian Assistance 2012