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Unemployment in Gaza and the urgent need to take action

Palestinian children can be seen doing their homework in their makeshift home in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Gaza [Ezz Zanoun/Apaimages]
Palestinian children can be seen doing their homework in their makeshift home in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Gaza, 20 November 2017 [Ezz Zanoun/ApaImages]

As the United Nations launched its Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030, and celebrated at the Humanitarian Summit the halving of extreme poverty in the world, we got slapped with a shocking report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics on the situation of unemployment in the Gaza Strip. Instead of witnessing an improvement in poverty and unemployment rates, we are seeing extremely high levels of unemployment which strikes the dreams of young Gazans and shatters their hopes.

According to the report, which deals with the situation of the labour force in Palestine for the third quarter of 2017, there are 243,800 unemployed people in the Gaza Strip, representing 46.6 per cent of the total unemployed Palestinians, where the highest unemployment rate was amongst 2-24-year-olds at 46.9 per cent.

This unemployment rate is the highest in 14.5 years. According to the eighth objective of the United Nations Plan, "promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all", the continuing lack of decent work opportunities is leading to the disappearance of the basic social agreement upon which democratic societies are based, which is the need for participation of everyone in progress.

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This is alarming policymakers and international institutions, including United Nations agencies, and calling their attention to the worsening crisis and expected rising of the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The first objective of the sustainable development plan is to eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere. Incidentally, this goal was accompanied by an image of a Palestinian child and his family in one of the Palestinian camps to denote poverty and need.

Gaza's poverty rates have been unprecedented as a direct result of a blockade of more than 11 years and an on-going aggression that has been repeated three times in less than six years. And now, a new confrontation is looming under the recent Israeli provocations against the Gaza Strip.

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Gaza has no natural resources, 5,500 of its industrial facilities, which employed thousands of workers, were destroyed, and people from Gaza have no access to outside markets or foreign investments due to the unstable political situation. This means that Gaza cannot address the issues of poverty, unemployment or food insecurity alone. It needs united and integrated efforts in regards to the fight against poverty and the reduction of unemployment in accordance with the goals set by the United Nations and taking into account the Palestinian situation.

And because Gaza needs action and is thirsty for results, and because flowers bloom because of the rain and not thunder, everyone is invited to take action before Gaza explodes in the face of everyone and before its social integrity collapses. If that happens, the negative effects will reach everyone and no one will be spared.

What is required is emergency relief through temporary employment programmes to target the largest number of workers and graduates who have spent the best years of their lives waiting for an opportunity to achieve self-fulfilment, to start a family, to contribute towards the needs of their families and to reduce the economic burden on their parents.

Those who will move in the direction of emergency relief must not overlook the need for development which can improve the economic situation through economic empowerment programmes and can achieve sustainable development. And due to the importance of temporary employment programmes in their emergency form, and the economic empowerment fund in its developmental form, international institutions and specialists should take the initiative and launch a donor conference in which relevant institutions and interested governments can discuss issues and ways to intervene urgently to improve the living conditions in the Gaza Strip. Interventions should be based on the principle of partnership in humanitarian action and an integration of roles.


Relevant Palestinian parties must benefit from the thirty-third meeting of the ministers of COMCEC (Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) which will be held in Istanbul this month. There has already been a request for convening a meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Palestine in general and the Gaza Strip in particular. The meeting will discuss ways to reduce poverty and the economic developments, especially in the OIC countries.

In the midst of talking about the need and the necessity of interventions, we must remember that all steps remain below the required level without the complete lifting of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, without achieving freedom of movement for its citizens, and without a complete end to the occupation, which impedes the reconstruction process and disrupts investment opportunities and economic development.

This article first appeared in Arabic on 16 November 2017 on the Palestinian Information Centre

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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