Bank in Gaza. Photo by Gisha
Bank in Gaza. Photo by Gisha

August 20, 2018. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, during the second quarter of 2018, even before the Kerem Shalom crossing was shut down, Gaza’s unemployment rate reached 53.7% – an increase of nearly 10% compared to the same quarter last year.

The number of individuals employed in the Gaza Strip dropped by about 20,000 total during this quarter, with the highest losses recorded in the construction sector where 2,038 jobs were lost; the farming and fishing sector, where 4,000 jobs were lost, and the services sector, the largest employer, where 19,000 jobs were lost over the quarter. Some gains were made in other sectors, such that the total was around 20,000.

Unemployment is particularly acute among women, at 78.3% this quarter, compared to 44.5 among men. A decade-long trend of increasing female participation in the workforce seems to have ground to a halt since 2016. The increase in the rate of unemployment is partly the result of more people (mostly men) entering the workforce. Unemployment among young people aged 15-29 reached 71.1% this quarter – an increase of 6.3% compared to the previous quarter.

At this rate, the annual average may well be unprecedented. For the sake of comparison, in the third quarter of 2014, a quarter that saw fifty days of hostilities during the last major military operation in the Strip, during which the economy all but shut down, unemployment was 47.4%. The gap between unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip and West Bank remains significant, with 19.1% unemployment in the West Bank in the second quarter.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and with economic activity stalled, residents are overcome by exhaustion and hopelessness. From July 10 – August 14, Israel blocked all exit of goods as well as entrance of essential items, including raw materials needed for industry and fuel for certain periods.