Unemployment rate for Palestine refugees reaches 44 per cent in Gaza Strip, UN agency says

UNRWA continues to distribute food to 830,000 refugees in Gaza. Photo: UNRWA

8 May 2015 – More than 27,000 applicants applied for some 200 teaching jobs for the coming academic year in the Gaza Strip, where unemployment has now reached nearly 44 per cent, making it one of the world’s most unstable economies, the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees across the Middle East said today.

“The resilience of Palestine refugees is legendary, but not inexhaustible,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which provides direct relief and works programmes for some 5 million Palestine refugees in the region.

Mr. Gunness quoted UNRWA Commissioner-General Krähenbühl as saying via social media: “Palestine refugees need more than just aid; they need a just solution.”

This past week, “the gravity of unemployment in Gaza, coupled with the number of well qualified job seekers, was once again brought to the fore,” according to Mr. Gunness.

He said a recruitment exercise was initiated in line with increasing student numbers to ensure quality education for refugee children in Gaza, and UNRWA received more than 27,000 applicants for an advertised recruitment of approximately 200 teachers for the coming school 2015-2016 year.

Out of the applicant pool, more than 22,000 people met the criteria and have been invited to take the written test, he said.

“The high number of qualified applicants,” Mr. Gunness said, “for a small number of job opportunities, reflects the ongoing unemployment crisis prevailing in Gaza.”

“A large portion of the society is highly educated but is limited to finding employment opportunities in the Strip, due to the blockade, which severely restricts the movement of people and goods,” he said.

“The blockade has crushed the Strip’s once dynamic and trade-oriented economy and its capacity to create jobs, and pushed the majority of the population into aid-dependency.”

According to the UNRWA spokesman, in 2014, the average unemployment rate for registered Palestine refugees was 44.1 per cent and for the general population it stood at 43.9 per cent.

“This is the highest rate ever recorded in Gaza and one of the highest worldwide,” he said.

Mr. Gunness also noted that approximately 65 per cent of the refugee population depends on food aid.

The Gaza economy was already in recession before the last conflict in the summer of 2014, but according to International Monetary Fund statistics, in the third quarter of 2014 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank dramatically by 24.4 per cent, according to UNRWA.

“According to the International Monetary Fund, the overall Gaza GDP shrank by 15 per cent in 2014, making it one of the most unstable economies in the world,” Mr. Gunness said. “There is no indication that this will improve in the near future.”


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