Unemployment in Gaza reached 44% in the second quarter of 2017, highest since the war

Unemployment in Gaza reached 44% in the second quarter of 2017, lowest since the war

A significant drop in the number of individuals employed in construction. Photo by Gisha.

September 27, 2017. Gaza’s unemployment rate rose during the second quarter of 2017, reaching the highest rate since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Gaza’s unemployment shot up to 44%, compared to 41.1% in the first quarter. Among women, unemployment jumped from 67.4% to 71.5% in the second quarter. Among men, the rate increased from 32.7% in the first quarter to 36.2% in the second. A similar increase in unemployment was registered among people in the workforce younger than 29, from 56.9% in the first quarter to 61.9% in the second.

These are the worst unemployment rates since the beginning of 2014, when Israel halted entry of construction materials altogether, paralyzing Gaza’s construction sector. The rise in unemployment rates during the second quarter of 2017 appears to be the result of a significant drop in the number of individuals employed in the construction sector: 15,484 people employed in construction compared to 20,472 in the first quarter. In addition, the month of Ramadan occurred during this quarter, further decreasing work hours. The deterioration in what was already a dire rate of unemployment is also likely to have been influenced by measures taken by the Palestinian Authority against its employees in the Strip.

Such a significant decline over a very short period of time underlines the desperate state of Gaza’s economy. Only four years ago, in the second quarter of 2013, Gaza’s unemployment rate was 27.9%. The continuous decline in the employment of women and young people attests to negative economic growth and a severe lack of opportunities for development. As a result of restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, Gaza residents are unable to seek employment outside of the Strip, not even in areas surrounding the crossings. Last year, heads of local councils in Israel near Gaza’s perimeter met with the defense minister and encouraged him to permit laborers from Gaza to exit for work in Israel, even if only in the immediate vicinity, a position supported by local farmers. At the time, the military reportedly favored the initiative. In reality, however, the number of people exiting Gaza through Erez Crossing, including merchants and businesspeople, continues to decrease, indicating a further tightening of the closure, and no laborers are permitted to exit.