According to the quarterly unemployment report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in the third quarter of 2021 (July-September), Gaza’s unemployment rate stood at 50.2%. This figure represents a dramatic 5.5% increase compared to the previous quarter and a 1.6% increase compared to the same quarter in 2020. In practice, however, actual unemployment is much higher. Since early 2019, the PCBS does not include people who have given up on looking for work due to the lack of opportunities in the Strip in its tally of the unemployed. During the third quarter of the year, 30,600 people joined Gaza’s workforce, but the total number of individuals employed dropped by 10,700.
The gap in unemployment rates between Gaza and the West Bank remains significant: 50.2% in Gaza, compared to 14.7% in the West Bank. Among those working in Gaza’s private sector, 83% earn less than minimum wage (1,450 ILS or ∼470 USD) per month, compared to only 7% in the West Bank. Average monthly earnings among people with employment in Gaza stood at 654 ILS (∼210 USD) this quarter, compared to 1,110 ILS (∼355 USD) in the West Bank.
Unemployment among women in Gaza also soared to 68.6% in the third quarter, up from 64% in the second quarter of 2021, maintaining a significant gap compared to the West Bank, where unemployment among women stands at 31.5%. Only 18.9% of women in Gaza (aged 15 or older) are counted in the workforce. They account for 15% of all people employed in the Strip. The number of women employed in Gaza in the third quarter of 2021 dropped by 3% compared to the second quarter.
Despite the dire need to rebuild in the wake of Israel’s bombardments in the Strip in May, the number of individuals employed in the construction sector plummeted by 26% in the third quarter, reaching a total of 5,785 workers. Sources in Gaza attribute the drop to the Israel’s blanket ban on the entry of construction materials and other goods between May and August this year.
The economic reality in Gaza today, where more than half of the workforce is unemployed, is in part the result of repeated rounds of hostilities and the severe movement and access restrictions Israel has imposed on Gaza for decades. Israel must desist from all measures of collective punishment, and immediately allow the entry of all items needed not only for reconstruction, but also for development and maintenance of civilian infrastructure. Travel restrictions must be based on relevant and reasonable considerations only.