Gaza reconstruction / Unemployment

Gaza conflict in 2014 caused hefty Palestinian job losses through destruction of workplaces and productive assets

New ILO study assesses how the Israeli military operation during the latest Gaza conflict caused widespread “disemployment” in the Palestinian territory’s private sector through the destruction of land, structures, capital equipment and tools.

خبر | occupied Palestinian territory | ٢٤ مارس, ٢٠١٥
BEIRUT (ILO News) – The Israeli military operation during last summer’s conflict in Gaza resulted in hefty job losses in the Palestinian enclave’s private sector, and increased already critical unemployment and poverty rates, a new International Labour Organization study has found.

The disemployment effect caused by the July-August 2014 operation raised the underlying unemployment rate in Gaza by some 4.3 percentage points to an estimated 36.9 per cent, the study reports, based on 2013 Gaza unemployment data.

The study, “The ‘Disemployment’ Impact of the 2014 Conflict in Gaza: An ILO Damage Assessment and Recovery Strategy,” considers how the latest sustained Israeli military operation in the Palestinian enclave caused labour displacement – or “disemployment” – in the private sector through the destruction of productive assets such as land, structures, capital equipment and tools normally used by Gaza residents in the course of their working day.

“Disemployment” thus refers to unemployment in excess of that which existed prior to the Israeli military operation.

“In addition to unprecedented numbers of people killed and injured, as well as widespread destruction of housing stock, the intense military operations destroyed a portion of the means of production, the things people need to produce goods and services and, in the process, their livelihoods,” said Salem Ajluni, author of the ILO report.

As billions of dollars in pledged funds to rebuild Gaza remain on hold, the new report highlights the urgent need to implement the Gaza recovery process with a long-term developmental vision for the Palestinian territory."

“Gaza suffered from some of the highest unemployment rates in the world even prior to the Israeli summer operation, largely due to decades of occupation, a limited resource base and border closures that left the people of Gaza isolated, impoverished and vulnerable,” said Mary Kawar, Senior Employment Specialist at the ILO Regional Office for Arab States.

“Gaza was already in the grip of a humanitarian and environmental crisis before the most recent operation began. Some 67 per cent of workers earned less than the minimum wage, and as wage employment is the principle source of income for the vast majority of Gaza households, it is not surprising that 80 per cent of Gaza residents were dependent on aid and 57 per cent were food insecure,” Kawar added.

At a conference in Cairo last October in which the ILO participated, donors pledged US$ 5.4bn to rebuild Gaza but most of this aid has not yet materialised, UN agencies have confirmed. The new ILO report highlights the urgent need to implement the Gaza recovery process, and coordinate reconstruction with a long-term developmental vision for the Palestinian territory.

Disemployment figures

The report estimates that disemployment due to the Israeli operation’s destruction of productive assets in the enclave amounted to around 17,200 jobs, based on preliminary estimates of physical damage to workplaces, as provided by the Palestinian Authority.

This figure is equal to about 11.4 per cent of the number of people employed in Gaza’s private sector in 2013 and to 6.4 per cent of total employment in Gaza that year.

The process of disemployment caused the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip to rise from an average of 32.6 per cent in 2013 to an estimated 36.9 per cent following the operation. However, the overall unemployment rate following the operation may well be higher, as this estimate does not take into consideration a spike in unemployment in the first half of 2014. This latter increase was due in large part to reduced market access after Egyptian authorities dismantled the underground tunnel system linking Gaza to the Sinai desert. The 36.9 calculation also assumes that all public-sector workers remained employed.

GDP losses

© Saleh Jadallah/ILO
The offensive has caused an estimated GDP loss of about US$ 508,000 per working day since the end of hostilities in August 2014, for every such day the destroyed means of production are not rebuilt or restored. This amounts to about US$ 80 million in the past six months.

“The protracted losses in employment and output induced by physical damage are themselves the equivalent of a deep economic recession in terms of their impact on household incomes. The difference here is that Gaza was already in crisis; the effect of the destruction was to greatly exacerbate an already dire situation,” noted author Salem Ajluni.

The private sector activities affected by the offensive include agriculture; manufacturing; construction; commerce, hotels and restaurants; transport and storage; information and communications; and education, health and other services.

The study also notes that 13 per cent of the enclave’s housing units were affected, rendering more than 108,000 people homeless. This has resulted in a lack of basic amenities that will hinder economic recovery and regeneration of employment for various groups, such as home-based workers, with a disproportionate effect on women.

A forward-looking strategy

The report is the ILO’s contribution to the Detailed Needs Assessment (DNA) undertaken following a request from the Palestinian Authority to United Nations agencies, the European Union and the World Bank. The DNA’s purpose is to help plan the Gaza recovery process following the conflict, and coordinate reconstruction with a long-term developmental vision for the enclave.

The new ILO report provides a forward-looking strategy to aid recovery in Gaza, through supporting immediate and longer-term job creation, ensuring the recovery of enterprises and the self-employed, investing in skills, institutionalizing employment coordination and introducing a monitoring mechanism.

“The ILO is responding to the reconstruction crisis in Gaza with renewed impetus to expand its operations in the occupied Palestinian territories and re-align them with the new national priorities and international interventions,” said Frank Hagemann, ILO Acting Regional Director for the Arab States. “Responding to the destruction Gaza endured last summer is of critical importance, but we will also continue to work within the larger ILO Palestinian programme to provide decent work for all Palestinians.”

Gaza jobs destroyed: How a Palestinian family lost its livelihood to conflict

Shaaban Sukkar, a Palestinian unemployed father of seven, describes how he and his seven brothers lost their livelihoods when their nut-roasting factory, equipment and a number of vehicles were destroyed by heavy Israeli bombardment. Sukkar and three of his brothers also lost their homes above the factory in the shelling.