Twenty-two thousand people added to the ranks of the unemployed in Gaza

Photo: Eman Mohammed

November 22-28, 2013. Gaza unemployment climbs to 32.5% • The construction sector is hit hard • Strawberry export from Gaza to Europe begins.

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip
According to figures published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, during the third quarter of 2013, Gaza’s unemployment rate rose to 32.5%, compared to 27.9% in the previous quarter, with 22,000 individuals being added to the ranks of the unemployed.

More than half of Gaza’s labor force, i.e. – the total number of individuals in the age group considered available for work, whether employed or unemployed – is out of work. Only 15.8% of women participate in the labor force, as opposed to 66.4% of the men. In this quarter, some 2,600 women joined the labor force, but, at the same time, the rate of unemployment among women rose from 50.4% to 56.7%, meaning approximately 6,000 women in Gaza joined the ranks of the unemployed. The rate of unemployment among young people, aged 15 to 29, rose to 50.5%, compared to 44.9% in the previous quarter.

Between July and September, tunnel activity decreased significantly following damage and destruction by Egyptian military forces and increased presence in the Sinai. The volume of construction materials entering the Strip decreased, while prices have risen. The construction sector, which accounted for 27.6% of Gaza’s GDP in the second quarter of this year, has been hard-hit by these developments, with 5,350 construction workers losing their jobs during the third quarter. The strain on the construction sector intensified in October, after the discovery of a tunnel from Gaza into Israeli territory and Israel’s retaliatory ban on the entry of construction materials for the private sector and international organizations. The sector was estimated to employ upwards of 70,000 individuals either directly or indirectly earlier this year.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the agricultural export season from Gaza to Europe, which accounts for most of the export that exits the Strip each year. Two truckloads of strawberries were scheduled to exit through Kerem Shalom Crossing, but Palestinian sources recounted that the trucks were delayed and that only one was able to exit before the crossing was closed. The other truck exited yesterday. Today three truckloads of strawberries exited the Strip plus another one loaded with herbs.

Israel continues to ban the sale of Gaza-made or grown goods in Israel and in the West Bank, with few exceptions.

Rafah Crossing
Rafah Crossing, which was closed on Friday November 22, was opened on Wednesday and will remain open today. The crossing is meant to operate between 9am and 3pm in order to allow Palestinians returning home to enter the Strip and allowing travel into or via Egypt for Palestinians who meet the exit criteria: medical patients and foreign passport and residency holders. About 3,200 individuals are registered to exit Gaza through the crossing.

Power plant
Due to the ongoing diesel shortage, the Gaza power plant has been out of commission since early November. Power outages last up to 16 hours daily. Negotiations are currently underway with Qatar, exploring the possibility that it would fund at least some of the diesel purchased from Israel. No agreements have been reached to date.

Photo: Yousef Mashharawi

Cooking gas
The Gaza Strip is still suffering from a shortage of cooking gas, with the Gaza Petroleum Authority distributing the cooking gas that enters via Kerem Shalom to a different district in Gaza each day. Palestinian sources have told Gisha that in addition to upgrades to the infrastructure used for transferring gas from Israel to the Gaza Strip, Israel has agreed to the installation of four gas reserve tanks on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom. Each tank will be able to hold 100 tons of cooking gas.