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IF Insights: Economic downfall continues for Palestine as Gaza conflict rages on

IFM_Palestine Unemployment
According to a recent UN report, 93% of Palestine refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Palestinian unemployment rate in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip is rising above 50% as a result of the ongoing military conflict in the region.

Since October 7, there have already been 500,000 job losses, according to Reuters. At that point, in response to Hamas’ armed incursion into the southern region of the occupation state, Israel started its military campaign against the Palestinians in Gaza. According to the ILO, if the offensive carries on until the end of March 2024, the jobless rate is predicted to skyrocket to 57%.

The devastation of Gaza’s businesses and public infrastructures, according to the organisation’s Regional Director for the Arab States, Ruba Jaradat, has “decimated entire economic sectors and paralysed labour market activity, with untold repercussions on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians for generations to come.”

Approximately 200,000 jobs have been lost in Gaza, making up almost two-thirds of all jobs in the territory. The West Bank, on the other hand, was described in the report as being in “near lockdown,” with over 650 permanent and temporary checkpoints around the region having a major detrimental impact on the local economy. Around one-third of all jobs in Palestine, or over 300,000 jobs, have already been lost there.

Youth Unemployment

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) offices were the scene of a protest where the youth of Palestine expressed dissatisfaction and called for the organisation to create more jobs in Gaza and to lift the Israeli siege of the territory.

Numerous recent graduates took part in the demonstration, yelling chants criticising the worsening economic conditions and the scarcity of employment prospects in the face of a steep increase in the unemployment rate in Gaza, which is currently over 45%, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

When comparing the occupied West Bank to Gaza, the youth unemployment figures, which include those aged 19 to 29, are especially striking. In the West Bank, 32% of people are unemployed, while in Gaza, 70% of people are unemployed.

Salah Abdel Ati, a legal and economic scholar based in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that while university graduates should be able to expect employment possibilities, the enclave’s economy has been seriously harmed by Israel’s blockade of Gaza since 2007.

According to Abdel Ati, 180,000 students leave Gaza’s institutions each year and face a labour market with limited options.

“UNRWA is required to provide them with job opportunities and operational programmes, especially in light of the difficult economic conditions,” The Gaza-based scholar stated, adding that refugees make up 70% of the population in the area.

Local estimates, according to Abdel Ati, showed that unemployment rates are rising and that roughly 200,000 graduates in Gaza are unemployed.

In a letter addressed to UNRWA’s commissioner general, Abdel Ati called for the establishment of an urgent programme for graduates in the Gaza Strip.

He continued, saying, “Youths need development projects and to be given soft loans that help them build their future.”

Al Jazeera sent a comment request, but UNRWA did not reply. Adnan Abu Hasna, the organisation’s communications adviser in Gaza, meanwhile, stated that UNRWA will require $190 million by the end of the year to close a financial gap.

In addition to “USD 75 million for food coupons in Gaza because they are a lifeline for the people,” Abu Hasna stated that this also includes funds to pay staff salaries.

Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, according to the World Labour Organisation.

“Almost every second Gazan who is employable is unemployed… In a report published this year, the organisation stated that two-thirds of people are unemployed and that few can find work,” he said.

Gaza’s economic crisis is further demonstrated by the fact that over half of Palestinians living there are dependent on humanitarian aid, and nearly one-third of households are classified as being in “catastrophic” or “extreme” need, following Israel’s repeated attacks on the territory since Hamas took control of it in 2007.

Many Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, which is 365 square kilometres (141 square miles) and walled off from the outside world, are obliged to consider leaving, a task that is infamously difficult for them.

As the war passed the one-month mark in November 2023, poverty in Gaza and the occupied West Bank increased by 20% and GDP declined by 4.2%, according to the report of the United Nations Development Programme and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). And things have deteriorated further since then.

No Hope Across The Border

According to yesterday’s Quds Press story, Palestinian rights activist Hassan al Saida has issued a dire warning over the dire effects of the high unemployment rate among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

According to Al Saida, between 80% and 90% of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are unemployed at the moment.

He clarified that this means they are living in extreme poverty, emphasising that this will cause hopelessness and despair, especially in the case of the younger refugees.

The rights activist warned Quds Press that the dire economic conditions facing Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are the worst they have seen in decades and that young refugees may be forced to flee to Europe if viable solutions to the issue are not found.

According to a recent UN report, 93% of Palestine refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty.

Twelve refugee camps in Lebanon are home to over 200,000 Palestinian refugees, according to UN statistics. They are no longer able to work in more than 70 significant professions, such as engineering and medicine.

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