Unemployment rose again by roughly half a percent in the first quarter of 2017, reaching 41.1%, compared with 40.6% in the final quarter of 2016. Unemployment in Gaza has been higher than 40% since early 2014.
Tailors in Gaza. Increased unemployment among young people in the first quarter of 2017. Photo: Karl Schembri

July 4, 2017. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip rose by about half a percent during the first quarter of 2017, reaching 41.1%.  The unemployment rate in the final quarter of 2016 was 40.6%. Gaza’s unemployment has been higher than 40% since early 2014.

A worrying trend observed in the figures for the first quarter of 2017 is the spike in women’s unemployment, which has reached 67.4%, an increase of 3% compared to the previous quarter. Figures for 2016 already pointed to a break in the ten-year trend of women’s increasing participation in the workforce. It appears that this trend is now beginning to reverse; though an increasing number of women look for work, fewer are able to find it. Unemployment among young people also grew by about 1%, from 56% in the last quarter of 2016, to 56.9% in the first quarter of 2017. Unemployment among men dropped slightly to 32.7%, compared to 33.2% in the previous quarter.

By comparison, the overall unemployment rate in 2012 stood at 31%. The sharp rise of 10% in only five years indicates a disturbing deterioration in living conditions in the Strip, and certainly no improvement in the economy. The declining rate of employment among women and young people is troubling as it points to an economy that is unable to become sufficiently varied and inclusive, offering adequate opportunities. All parties involved claim to understand that Gaza’s economy would be immensely benefited by better access to markets and greater freedom of movement for people. Delaying the implementation of necessary changes in policy any further cannot be justified.